Shari Urquhart was born in Racine, WI in 1940. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and earned three separate degrees there, one which was a teaching degree that she used throughout her life. Obtaining her postgraduate degree, she taught in the local high school in Racine, Wm Horlick HIgh from 1962 - 1964, following which time she made her move to New York City to follow her passion as a serious painter and fiber artist. She taught on the faculty in the Department of Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from 1972-1974. When Urquhart made NYC her home, she taught full time at Rikers Island Correctional Center in the Find Art Workshop from 1978 to 1982. On numerous occasions she was invited as a visiting artist at various institutions, one such appointment led her to teach painting at UW Madison in the late 1980’s.  From 1982 through 2007, Urquhart implemented and taught the art program for a 25 year period at the St. Francis Residence in New York City. The residence offered permanent housing to the mentally impaired and was one of the first of its kind in the nation. She brought visual art, sometimes music and creative writing, to St. Francis and designed a full art studio for the residents, teaching daily classes, inviting other artists to lead special workshops. As a generous and compassionate facilitator, Urquhart inspired many tenants to discover and develop their own artistic abilities to a remarkable degree, in a safe and supportive environment.

Shari Urquhart continued her own studio practice throughout her working career. While completing her post-graduate work, Urquhart’s background was in painting during the post Ab Ex and Pop eras. Her early oils aptly illustrate her masterful knowledge of the push and pull of color and bravura of how to lay down mark. Throughout her life she painted in oil and watercolors, but her true passion was developing opulent tapestries from the traditional craft medium of punch needle rug hooking and devoted her energies to tactile works made from Persian wool, mohair, chenille, satin, silk, acrylic fibers and even her own dog's hair. It is no wonder that her transfer from oil to fiber would possess the same knowledge. Like a fine chemist, the process of dying natural fibers in pure pigment can be savored through the soak. Armed with her own painterly command and her superb understanding of color theory, this hands-on transformative process takes center stage in each of her pieces.

Urquhart’s labor intensive, tactile fields are filled with ambrosial chroma that have the power to whet any palate. Her larger works, some 10’ wide, usually take up to a full year to complete. The works she completed over four decades are so large one can easily fall into them to cuddle up and be embraced by their sensual pleasure.  Two hallmark exhibitions that included Shari Urquhart’s work were Bad Girls, Part II (1994) and ‘Bad’ Painting (1978) at The New Museum in New York City, both curated by Marcia Tucker. Of her other accomplishments was a solo exhibition, The Fuzzy Museum at Cheryl Pelavin Fine Arts (NYC) in  2005, among others. Each of the exhibitions she participated, her work is filled with humor drawn from popular culture, Netherlandish, Renaissance and 20th century paintings and design. Throughout her extraordinary career, Urquhart had many solo and group exhibitions with prestigious galleries around the country. 

Her lush and life-size works are filled with narrative images of actors and still life props into theatrical stage sets to create complex compositions, playing out . Her early narratives often revolved around the interaction between a male and female figure. Each figure occupies a chromatic space that produces active energy and seduction where emotional heat seems to be visually discharged. Each threaded tapestry exhibit reverence under the comical critiques of her own making. All are filled with urgent poignancy about the state of public and private affairs. Each object in Urquhart’s universe are symbolic surrogates for real life complexities such as love, war, greed, the uneven distribution of wealth, capitalism, envy, fantasy, all from a feminist point of view. Her fiber works neatly thread together an extraordinary and carefree artistic expression, illustrating her sharp knowledge of history, sometimes bordering on sardonic wit in the “powerlessness of a woman’s voice in matters of love and war,” her words.

Her accomplished works have been reviewed in major publications including Art in America, Art Forum, The New Art Examiner, Art Papers, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, among others, including her work's inclusion in books on contemporary art. Urquhart's paintings and fiber works are in numerous public and private collections including The Milwaukee Museum of Art, The Nasher Gallery at Duke University, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, The Lannan Foundation, among others.

Upon her retirement from the St. Francis Residence in 2007, Urquhart returned to Kenosha, WI where she continued to create fresh and new narratives in fibers on a smaller scale. She continued her work until her death on NOV 21, 2020 leaving a legacy of profound storytelling and an unparalleled body of creative artistry.

The work belonging to The Estate of Shari Urquhart is represented by Debra Brehmer, director of The Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art located in the Historic 
Third Ward, 207 E. Buffalo Street, Suite #526 in Milwaukee, WI 53202 


Masters of Fine Arts 1967 The University of Wisconsin at Madison
Masters of Education 1966 The University of Wisconsin at Madison
Bachelors of Science 1962 The University of Wisconsin at Madison

Image above: Portrait of the artist by Phillip dePintor, Chicago, IL