Category Archives: Studio Visits

Studio Visit: Nining Muir

Visiting Nining Muir in her studio at Art Explosion was like walking in to a museum gallery without the help of an audio tour or docent. Trying to get her to open up about her work and her process was a bit like pulling teeth. Many of her paintings have a definite message, from the brutality of the meat industry to her feelings about her emigration from Indonesia; however, her low-key ego insists that I, as the viewer, determine my own meanings from her work since she only occasionally hinted at what I should or shouldn’t get out of the experience. Her opinion in this matter is summed up by the artists’ quote on her website

What the eye beholds
The tongue need not explain.

To this, she also added another characteristically Nining Muir quote in response to my badgering for more fully developed answers to our blog Five Questions: “You wanted more? Less is more; here you go.” I then realized that it would not be easy to pin her down on much about her process. She says that she dislikes “the process of blathering about process” and that “visual art” to her “is simply that: visual.” After a series of questions that weren’t being answered with the detail that I felt they deserved, I was then surprised by her answer to my question about any special or rare materials that she has used in her work. Catching me off-guard, she responded by pointing to one of her paintings, “Blood Oil”, (shown below, over her left shoulder) which depicts a gushing well; the oil and sky in the painting contains the artist’s own menstrual blood.

While many of her images are positively political in dramatic, bloody realism, the same number are more in the pop art category, with the former portraying such things as cows being mutilated for slaughter and in the latter, her cows are brightly colored with cartoonish smiles. After pressing from me about why cows are a favorite subject of hers, she finally opened up by saying:

I’ve painted a lot of cows. Why? I don’t know; I felt like it. One cow painting led to the next. Some turned out to be gruesome, some fanciful, some had a political dimension; others simply reflected my mood at the time of their creation. I guess mood matters. Often a painting starts out one way and changes direction radically, all because of the way I’m feeling. Will people find that interesting? Maybe, but frankly I’d rather have them look at my work, look closely, walk away and then come back and look some more. It’s all about looking, about what’s visual. I’m a visual artist. I’d rather leave interpretations to the viewers (or the curators).

When asked about the influence working at SFMOMA has had on her work, she feels that one of the best things about working here has been in getting to “meet all of the other artists who are also [on] staff” and in getting to see other people’s work. Her favorite pieces at the museum include works by Anselm Kiefer, Frida Kahlo and Nathan Oliveira.

While the artist is impenetrable, her artwork is entirely accessible. After interviewing Nining and coming to terms with the fact that she was forcing me to make my own judgments about her work, I realized that this is the best way to approach viewing art, anyway. As a viewer, I’m going to like what I like, regardless of the story behind the work, or what the artist intended to get across. It is about my experience, and I don’t have to view a work through a political or cultural lens; the viewer sees what he or she wishes to see.

Interview/photos by Ric Weaver

Nining Muir sits in front of the diptych, “Vietnam Vertigo” to be displayed in Last Call Staff Art Show.


Studio Visit: Sharon Shepherd

Sharon Shepherd welcomed Last Call Staff Art Show curator Michelle Nye into her studio and home, sharing a wonderful conversation and excellent coffee.

Sharon’s Words:

I create work on canvas or paper, working on 3‐8 pieces at the same time, over several weeks or months. My process is layered: paints, mediums, scraping, digging, wiping into and onto the surface of the work. I might sit in a chair or on the floor, stand, crawl, crouch, or stoop to reach the surface of the work. My workspace is limited in size, so continually moving of the works around in the space allows me the visual impact of following the progress of all the works as I repeat my layering process.

I work alone (with the exception of my Shih Tzu, Bailey), and prefer it that way.

Years ago, I chose a non‐studio profession to support and inform my art. I’ve always sought outside employment that would not drain my spirit of creativity, but inspire it. For many years I was an academic fine arts librarian at a university and enjoyed interaction with fellow faculty (art and otherwise) and students in helping with research in all fields of the arts. I was continually exposed to new ideas as individuals sought my assistance and expertise to resolve their questions. This reference work always created an exciting landscape for my own curiosity and opened many ideas to me in creating my own artwork.

Working at SFMOMA is an invaluable opportunity to meet inspiring co‐workers and see and experience behind‐the‐scenes work at one of the most exciting places for inspiration – an art museum.

There was SFMOMA ephemera throughout Sharon’s studio. I loved her recycled use of temporary SFMOMA badges – excellent painting tools!

I have been very fortunate to have traveled extensively, which has given me the opportunity to see many museums around the world, as well as visit many historical, archeological and ancient architectural sites that have influenced my work. The remains and traces of our cultural influences reveal not only decoration, but deterioration as well, and these remnants have inspired my works. My paintings embrace a visual language in my layered surfaces, disguising realism altogether. My commitment is to abstraction and to my process.

These are a collection of photographs Sharon has taken of deteriorating walls from around the world. These surfaces inspire some of her mark makings.

Sharon’s gorgeous collection of artwork by esteemed Bay Area and international artists – stunning!


Sharon’s work is currently on display in the lobby of 425 Market Street through May 19th, 2012.


Studio Visit: Chris Oropeza

Photo: Ken Taylor

Information Desk Assistant
Co-director and co-founder of Incline Gallery

Place of Residence:
Noe Valley

Photo: Ken Taylor

How has working at SFMOMA influenced you?
With the gallery, I’ve been able to collaborate with SFMOMA people who work as artists as much as they work at SFMOMA if not more. I’ve never had this connection with coworkers before. It’s like, “you’re probably doing something on the side and you’re probably good at it because you can hustle.” The art world is a hustle- shined up as it is. You can’t sell something unless you know somebody.

Have you ever accidentally ruined a work?
I had a cat named Littles. It was around when I first was going from working with small watercolor to bigger poster-sized works. I wasn’t happy with the composition of the works and I was bringing people in to look at them. So, then my brother called me. And he said, “I’ve got some bad news.” The cat jumped up on the table and he took a crap on your painting. Littles is my most honest critic.

Also, I was at a dinner last night and I was talking to an artist who will be showing at Incline named David Linger. He teaches at Cal. One of his requirements for his students is to take a major work from the semester and throw it off the roof. I thought that was liberating.

Photo: Ken Taylor

What is the longest amount of time you have ever spent creating one work?
The Mission Pie mural took me two and a half months. Mid-June to August. I did it with Max Allbee and Brian Cohen- an Incline Co-Owner. We had to sit here and hash out ideas. From there we created these images. This was collaboration. One person did the pie of land, one person did the hands. Then we had to edit and review.

What took the least time?
I love doing quick sketches of people in the atrium [of the museum]. There’s always fifteen seconds when people are waiting for someone who is in the bathroom or looking at someone, or leaning with their hand on their hip.

Photo: Ken Taylor

Do you have a favorite tool?
My left eye. I can’t see detail because I have astigmatism. I look at the shape and the composition of the work and the light. I look at the intensity and the hue.

What do you listen to when you’re working and no one else is around?
I listen to the SF Symphony on Pandora. Barn Owl. I listen to a lot of ranchera music.

Photo: Ken taylor

Interview: Leyna Lightman
Photography: Ken Taylor