FORMER WIEDEN & KENNEDY art director and two-time Oregon Biennial honoree Storm Tharp paints portraits—after a fashion. His jarring, surreal depictions of both celebrities and average Joes serve as a window into his own state of mind rather than commentary on his subjects, as was the case with Andy Warhol’s iconic pop-art studies of Marilyn Monroe. We rang Tharp for a chat about his eclectic palette and his current exhibition at PDX Contemporary Art.
I notice that some of your paintings are of famous people.
I don’t choose anyone that I don’t have some kind of affinity for. Working with a recognizable figure is not that different than choosing a medium or choosing a color.
Are your paintings a representation of those people?
If it looks like them, then it’s a representation.
So what can we expect at your PDX Contemporary Art exhibition?
The show is called Arm & Arm, and it’s really an investigation into the notion of two, and double, and couples, and things that look the same but in fact mean different things.
Are there any political overtones? After all, presidential tickets come in twos.
Hilarious. I didn’t even realize until a couple months ago that it was going on during election week. However, when I was thinking about this idea of choices, I did think it was quite interesting that we were coming into the election season. I almost did something about it because it was perfect—it would have been really easy for me to slide it in, but it also would have been slightly disingenuous because I’m not necessarily the best mouthpiece for politics.