Tara Esperanza earned a BFA in Painting and graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In addition, she studied plein air painting in Brittany, France. Tara was born and raised in Massachusetts. Inspired by the light and landscape, she later moved to Santa Fe, NM. She now resides in Oakland California where succulents grow all year long. Tara has exhibited her paintings in galleries throughout the Bay Area, including Mercury 20 Gallery in Oakland, Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette, Orangeland Gallery in San Francisco, and Marin Society of Artists in San Rafael. As well as Sturt Haaga Gallery in Los Angeles, San Diego Museum of Art, and the Museum of Northern California Art in Chico. Tara is also a long distance runner and she studies plant life on her runs. She is inspired daily by the beauty that surrounds us and she captures images that live on through her art. All of the subjects of her paintings are seen through her eyes in nature.
I have always been interested in and inspired by nature. My affection and appreciation for the environment was realized at a very young age and as a painter I have consistently been drawn to the natural world as my subject. My interest lies in sharing the beauty that I see through my art.
The Succulent Garden is my latest body of work. I began focusing on succulents when I was commissioned to paint them four years ago. That project propelled me into greater discovery and a deep relationship with the plants. Whether I am caring for my plants, or appreciating plants in nature I find that space and time to be sacred; as I nurture them, they nurture me. I recognize the plant power and the effect that the plants have on me.
I am interested in their personalities. I particularly love how resilient they are and how they share space. They thrive while living in community. They lean on each other and hold each other up. I am also inspired by the abundant varieties of textures, colors, and shapes. In my work I look deep into the plants and express the interesting compositions that I see in nature. My paintings celebrate the diversity and beauty that I see in the succulent world. My hope is that the viewer experiences a new, or greater plant appreciation and connects with nature through my work.
When was the first time you felt like you were an artist?
I honestly don't recall a time of not feeling like an artist. At a very young age I was serious about my art and creativity. When I was in middle school, I began building a portfolio for college submissions. I knew that I wanted to go to art school then and I remained focused on that goal. I was fortunate to attend a high school with a strong arts program that also supported me in the portfolio preparation for college. I graduated Cum Laude from UMASS Dartmouth in 1995 with a BFA and a focus on painting. In addition, I was also raised in a very loving and supportive home that allowed me to explore and develop the artist within me. I have been forging my path in life through art and creativity and I have always identified as an artist.
What would you say is the underlying thread that connects your work?
The underlying thread that connects my work is nature. I have always been inspired by the natural world. Many years ago, I was focused on landscapes and even studied Plein Air Painting at Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in Brittany, France. After college I moved to New Mexico and continued to be inspired by the extraordinary high desert landscape there. Eventually my work shifted and I developed a body of work about Mexico: “The Windows To Mexico”. My paintings continued to incorporate the landscape with Mexican culture. Currently my work focuses on succulent plants and now I explore the expansive world of succulents while aiming to offer a new perspective. I continue to be inspired by the beauty that surrounds me.
What is the most satisfying part of your practice?
Solving problems. I almost answered with finishing a painting, but I realize that the biggest satisfaction is when I feel that breakthrough moment in the painting process. It’s the moment when I solve whatever problem that I was facing. Every painting starts off as a challenge. Although I have completed many paintings, each painting presents a new bundle of challenges. Some paintings are certainly more difficult than others and all of them require digging deep to work through whatever it is. It’s like hiking up a steep mountain and when you get to the top you can see the whole view and you know that the descent is the easy part. It is at that moment when the painting emerges and I can almost see the finish line, or the bottom of the mountain.
Tell us about a turning point in your artistic journey and/or career.
In 2017 I was commissioned to create a large painting of succulents. The client wanted a specific plant and although I had not painted succulents before, I accepted. That project totally shifted my focus and trajectory as an artist. That commission gave me a new subject that I totally fell in love with. I was already plant obsessed, but now I had a whole new obsession and after that painting was completed, I could not stop. The inspiration was overflowing and it continues to flow.
Like so many artists, I had gone through a season of my life where I was not painting. I moved to California in 2008 to grow a small business that I had started in New Mexico. Tara’s Organic Ice Cream was born out of creativity and ice cream was another medium for me. However, I totally bootstrapped that business and it took up so much of my time to grow that I was unable to paint for several years. I wasn’t able to juggle developing an art career and Tara’s Organic Ice Cream simultaneously, so art hit the back burner. Eventually I started painting again, but I was painting more for myself. Essentially, I had been painting to build a collection in storage for years. Then in early 2018 I had a huge “check yourself” moment and I decided that I needed to make life changes and I was ready to pursue my art career. That year I sold one of my ice cream shop locations to recenter myself and simplify my life. That provided me the time I needed to paint more and show my work. I set out on a mission to find my art community and get involved in my local art scene. Since then, I have acquired a better life balance to develop my art career while running my small business. I have also found my art community and I have been actively showing my art since.
If you could show your work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Anywhere that would result in a sold-out solo show while I’m alive. That is the ultimate dream. Of course, I want to show in a museum, internationally, or a world-renowned gallery, but really any space capable of selling a body of work at one time is the ideal space/experience to me. I would love to know what that feels like as a living artist.