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Sharon Butler
brent grant
2008, 18” x 24”,  oil on canvasboard


This painting is part of a series (two other examples are shown below) that set out to use red, white, and blue without evoking patriotic associations. In Barstools she really goes all out, using Christmas in the title to make you think red and green. It’s a great bar joke and, perhaps more seriously (not sure about that), it’s something like the Stroop Test.

STAN GETZ ON THE PATIO, 2008, 18” x 24” FOR THE THRIFT SHOP, 2008, 18” x 24”

The Stroop Test is a psychological test of our mental (attentional) vitality and flexibility. The task takes advantage of our ability to read words more quickly and automatically than we can name colors. If a word is printed or displayed in a color different from the color it actually names—for example, if the word “green” is written in blue ink (as shown in the figure below)—we will say the word “green” more readily than we can name the color in which it is displayed. The cognitive mechanism involved in this task is called “directed attention.” You have to manage your attention, inhibit or stop one response in order to say or do something else. 


Other associations come to mind. One is that Socrates would not like this painting at all. Socrates would drive painters out of his Republic as lacking in virtue, a position that I found painful when I first encountered it and still do—a little.

Socrates—Now let me ask you another question: Which is the art of painting designed to be—an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear—of appearance or of reality?

Glaucon—Of appearance.

Socrates—Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and can do all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an image…and, if he is a good artist, he may deceive children or simple persons when he shows them his picture…
--Plato, Book X, The Republic, translated by Benjamin Jowett

The barstool on the left is kind of all there except for the pole sticking out of it, but the one on the right is really all over the place. And yet I look at it and remember many pleasurable wasted hours idling in this and that bar—and also the Christmas Eve scene from The Apartment on YouTube.

Sharon’s work is playful and experimental especially in the areas of color and composition as can also be seen in her sketchbooks.

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