The connection between animals and humans has always been a theme in Suzanne Sbarge’s artwork.
“I think a lot about how animals are part of our consciousness and how we are animals,” said Sbarge, an Albuquerque-based collage artist and painter.
Going back and forth between painting her creations and piecing together old photos she finds at antique stores or thrift shops, she creates dream-like scenarios. They range from a parrot’s head on a woman’s body or a giraffe with human eyes and arms replacing two of its long legs.
Dozens of her new works will be on display at the Turner Carroll Gallery starting tonight in her solo show, “Meta/Morph.”
The works are a far cry from the art Sbarge shows as the executive director at 516 ARTS, a contemporary art gallery in Albuquerque that often creates shows that tie to heavy themes like social justice or environmental issues. She said she’s excited to show the other side to her artistic life.
“I’m doing something that feels very playful and liberating for me,” she said. “It’s very different.”
For this show, Sbarge says she’s ventured away from using birds almost exclusively as her animal of choice. She said this isn’t a conscious artistic decision, but, to her, birds like gulls, ostriches and parrots represent a “sense of freedom” that make them compelling.
Her new works utilize more exotic animals like tigers, monkeys, kangaroos, and more everyday creatures like chipmunks and cats.
The hybrid creatures don’t necessarily challenge the audience, but they still force everyone who walks by to do a double-take, said Turner Carroll director Stephen Buxton.
“It’s whimsical, it makes you think a little, you see something and everything is imagery we’re used to seeing, but she has a great way of mixing it up … and you have to take a second look, always,” said Buxton.
Sbarge said it’s her goal to make people think and create work with a narrative, but it’s up to the viewer to determine what that story is. Sbarge leaves it “open-ended” for herself, as well. Even when she’s creating the art, her mind steers clear of assigning a message.
“If it’s too clear, it becomes boring to me … . They really come from the place of dreams, (and) that’s what I try and tap into,” she said. “You never really know what a dream means, either.”
“Meta/Morph” will be up until Dec. 20. The opening reception is tonight from 5-7 p.m.