Kerri Scharlin’s paintings, sculptures, and drawings engage and destabilize the notion of portraiture, constantly prodding and repositioning the role of subject and viewer. For over thirty years, her practice has used tropes of observation as a catalyst for connection, possibility, and perception. Her curiosity about certain groups stems from an interest in the social fabric of our relationships, how we interact with one another, and our shared challenges and vulnerabilities.

Early work highlights Scharlin herself as the one to be viewed, as she commissioned professional observers like police sketch artists, illustrators, and journalists to construct her portrait in their industry-standard style. This willingness to assess herself within these tropes set the stage for future investigations into how we categorize ourselves and our personal connections. She later applied this fascination to cadres of women from the upper east side of Manhattan, circles of close friends, and feminine characters found in allegories and myths. These depictions may embrace prototypical faces, postures, and surroundings, but they're interspersed with knowing humor and focus attention on Scharlin's own perception and relationship to the group.

Recent paintings follow this theme of self-identification, featuring fellow artists in their studios surrounded by their creative process. Scharlin sees these portraits as open invitations for these artists to be in community with her. Some compositions are imbued with an uncertain psychological state, the clustered profiles evaporating into raw canvas and dissolving into basic geometry. Others reflect a great sense of play, with bright and bold color stories bridging this intersection of figuration and abstraction.

Scharlin also pushes artistic classifications in her sculptural work. Seeking to bring painting past the flat plane, she began investigating what happens when paint migrates onto a sculpture’s surface. Soon the objects themselves came to the fore, and with them arrived a new level of experimentation and play in assembly and structure. Even with this focus on construction and materials, Scharlin’s forms appear vaguely human, echoing once again her desire for connection.