Article Submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Stella Gelardi Malfilatre.
Jenny Sharaf is an artist from Los Angeles and living in San Francisco, CA. She considers herself a painter and conceptual artist interested in California culture, international fashion forecasting, and female empowerment on a global stage. Her large-scale murals can be found in Tokyo and San Francisco. She has worked on various many brand campaigns and collaborations, including with clients such as Stance, Nike, Bang and Olufsen, Ace Hotel, Google, Levi’s and much much more. We had a chat with her about the creative process behind her painted Polaroid photos – and what she’s working on next.
Have you always had a creative spark?
When I was a kid, I remember being very good at entertaining myself. I was always putting on plays, making up stories or games, painting and drawing. One of my fondest hobbies was putting snails all over my face and laying in the grass outside for hours. My parents took pictures one time and framed them, so I guess we can consider that an early documented performance of mine. [laughs]
What was it like to grow up in California? Do you think this is something you have naturally drawn inspiration from in your work?
California is the dreamland. Especially L.A. – the weather is always perfect, the people are always beautiful and there’s a sparkle to it all. The TV and film business has a lot to do with that. Of course, there’s also a darkness to all that too. Whether or not there is imagery involved, I want that gravitas of California culture to come through in the color palette and abstraction. Sometimes my work is more about colors and form, and bringing a brightness and glow to a large space.
How do you stay inspired and excited about making and creating?
You can’t wait for inspiration. And not all parts of making work is exciting. That might sound obvious, but ideas come from ideas, it’s a generative process to make art full time. I always have like 20 projects going on in my head. And sometimes up to 10 up in the air real projects mid-process. I love to see how things can naturally connect and sometimes ideas come together in strange ways. It always feels like a weird serendipitous cosmic moment. Also, I try to make a conscious effort to always push my practice and career to the next level. I realized I had been telling myself things about my work that were limiting its scope and in turn, was basically glass-ceiling-myself. So now I try to be aware of that and go for the projects that feel slightly intimidating or beyond my reach. A positive internal dialogue is also a must.
It is impressive how many interesting projects and collaborations you have been working on. How did it all start?
In a practical sense, I really try to diversify my practice so that I have many different avenues for my work to exist. I’ve always reached out to artists I admire and creatives that I wanted to know. Also, my interest in brands and collaborations is very natural and there’s a certain fluidity to it. One project seems to lead into the next. I’m lucky to get approached by people I think are genuinely cool to work with. I’m working on a new body of work in Los Angeles, to hopefully exhibit this summer. Always painting on my collection of vintage Playboys. Also, obsessed with painting sneakers at the moment.
Which ones have been your favorite collaborations? And why?
I always love working with the Ace Hotel. Probably the most fun was doing the main wall mural at their Palm Springs location, timed with Coachella a couple of years back. Also, working with Stance on a new series of socks which is very very fun. I am so excited to see these weird and colorful textiles come to life and take on a whole new language and context. Seeing paintings turn into fabrics is very exciting. Plus, my name is on the toes, which is pretty cool! Seriously can’t wait to see people take sock selfies.
What was it that drew you to working with the Polaroid format?
Polaroid photos are the ultimate of – the – moment treasure. They capture the fleeting moment better than any other camera. Especially In this digital age, it is such a treat to have tangible physical photos that I can appreciate their preciousness. Or even just to look back on one day to remember I was young and fun. I still have a lot of candid shots of my parents on polaroids, which I’m beyond grateful for. There’s absolutely nothing like the sound of taking a Polaroid. Feels too good not to do it again and again. The magic and romance of capturing a fleeting moment on film are definitely not lost on me.
What’s exciting about being an artist right now?
Being an artist feels really important at this current moment. Not only because of the political climate, which requires a multitude of loud and visual voices to exist, but because our culture is obsessed with content. Artists understand content – it’s what we do in a basic sense- so this is the time for creatives and artists to shine. There’s more opportunity than ever and things feel more decentralized and democratic than before, mostly because of social media. It’s exciting to watch unfold.
Where do you see yourself in the future? What’s next for you?
I have some fun projects in L.A. coming up. I’m doing a little project at the Vans HQ later this month. A few top-secret collaborations falling into place. Also, I have really wanted to paint outside lately, so experimenting with some new processes that make that possible. I’m also planning a big mural in the Google HQ this month as well. In the future, I’d like to have big fancy solo exhibitions all over the world. Duh. [laughs]. Goals are to be an old lady who does ballet, paints all day and hosts fabulous dinner parties. I want to always feel curious about life and constantly evolving. And always wear the coolest sneakers.