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  • Writer's picturePeggy Nichols

Saralene Tapley, an artist whose work focuses on ideas of the psyche, thru a visual language...

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

" My work addresses relationship between beauty/pleasure and pain/mental anguish: the sensuality and enjoyment associated with painted bodies in contrast to the madness and instability that it represents. Mental illness and sensuality are recurring themes in much of my work. I try to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable challenging what makes the viewer comfortable."


'Ava 1', acrylic on canvas, 47 x 34 inches

'Portrait of Yet 2', acrylic on canvas, 42 x 41 inches

"My name is Saralene Tapley.

I am an Irish-American artist. I just moved back to the Houston area from NYC. I lived in The New York City area for three years. I moved to New York from Houston, Texas, where I lived for 9 years, to receive my MFA from the New York Academy of Art.

Previous to that I lived in Dublin, Ireland for 9 years and London, England for 1 year. I finished my BFA in Dublin’s National College of Art and Design.

Upon moving to Texas, I completed my Masters in Arts and Humanities at University of Houston / Clear Lake.

My childhood was very colorful. I lived in the United States until I was eleven, then moved to Taiwan and Korea, where I finished secondary school. I still maintain relationships with my childhood friends even though many of them are spread around the globe.

I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. My two brothers are some of my best patrons. My older brother, Matthew, owned a wine bar called Vino, in Montreal, where quite a few of my works hung. My sister and younger brother both collect and critique my work. I also have murals and paintings hanging in various restaurants and hotels in Dublin.

I must attribute most of my interest in art to my parents that have been very encouraging of my career path, despite it’s many hardships. Most of my training as a child came from my mother, who is from Wisconsin. She is a very talented artist and teacher. I spent most of my childhood watching her draw portraits of local families and taking her art classes.

My father, is from Dublin, Ireland. He is a skilled carpenter and engineer. He has been very generous with his time and wood working skills, creating frames and hanging devices for my exhibitions.

What I enjoy most about working in the arts is that I can continuously reinvent my artwork. There are many mediums to explore and subjects to discover. I also enjoy seeing other artists work, comparing and learning from different ideas and forms of visual language."

'Self Portrait with Pink and White Stripes 3', acrylic on canvas, 32.5 x 23.5 inches


'Meribeth 1', monotype on paper, 37 x 49 inches

"I began working in monotype printmaking by a fluke. When I was attending the New York Academy of Art, I signed up for a class drawing animals. I realized quite quickly, that though I love animals, I have no interest in drawing or painting them. I dropped the class and enrolled in a monotype class, because there were spaces left.

I never looked back. I really loved it. I love the immediate spontaneous process. I love that you have to abandon any expectations about your final product and to be open to something new.

I love the experimentation it allows, and I love that it is all about painting.

My paintings have always been about people and portraiture. Whether I am painting nudes or heads and faces, I aim to capture the essence of the person I am painting (without sounding cliche).

I think "essence" is somewhere between their likeness, my appreciation for them and my mood at the time creating the work.

I have in the past, worked from life, but for the last several years I have been working from photographs.

A lot of my compositional planning happens in the photographic stage. I like working from different models.

I usually hire models to work with from Houston's Glassell School of Art.

I arrange and entire photo shoot with poses, props, and backdrops. I then comb through my best images and create paintings or prints from them.

When working from photos, I always create a preliminary drawing, both when printing and in painting. When working on canvas, I create an oil pastel layout. When printing, I use a palette knife to etch the layout in the first layer of ink or slow dry medium with which I prepare the plexiglass plate.

I rarely work from the same model for more than one photo shoot, and I don't screen models. I enjoy arriving at a photo shoot and being completely surprised by who shows up.

Most of the artists I look at are female figurative painters. I particularly like the way women artists portray the female nude. Women artists have an understanding of the female body beyond just what it looks like. Artists I like are: Beverly McIver, Alice Neel, Marlene Dumas, Joan Semmel, and Aleah Chapin. These are just a few.

At the moment, I am taking a little break from painting, trying to plan my next step. It's kind of scary not knowing what I am going to be doing next. However, I have an upcoming exhibition in December and January at Lubbock Art House. The exhibitions will feature one of every model I have painted or printed from, in the last five years. This accumulates to over 15 years! The upcoming exhibitions pay homage to the model in the art making process. I have also been asked to teach a monotype workshop to the community. I am looking forward to this workshop. Monotype printmaking is such an enjoyable process. I feel everyone should have a chance to try it."

'Andi 3', monotype on paper, 49 x 37 inches

'Meribeth and Yet 2', monotype on paper, 49 x 37 inches

Saralene Tapley at one of her exhibitions.

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