Inspirational ingredients

Painter Sharon Irla is influenced by her Cherokee heritage.



Irla’s painting,“Save Xingu — Tribute to Cacique Raoni”

Photo courtesy of Sharon Irla

From her childhood, Cherokee artist Sharon Irla recalls her mother’s sewing room and the handmade quilts and painted Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottles created by her grandmother. Both women influenced Irla’s career, first as a muralist and trompe l’oeil artist, and currently as an oil painter inspired by her Native American ancestry and culture.

Irla will be featured at the Cherokee Art Market later this month at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa. She has participated in the event since 2007. 

How long have you been an artist and who influenced your career choice?

My professional career as a commercial/digital artist began in the mid-’80s and continued for the most part until the late ’90s, when I began working as a muralist/decorative artist in the Dallas area. In 2003, my artistic focus turned to fine art oil painting and Cherokee or Southeastern Native American culture as my subject matter, which is what brought me back to Oklahoma. Without a doubt, my mother was the most influential. She was very creative and sewed beautiful clothing for her female clientele, as well as for my sister and me. Her work area was full of fancy fabrics and sketches of beautiful women. It was a favorite place to hang out.  

Are you from a family of artists?

Aside from my mother, there are several artistically talented family members. My grandmother did a lot of folk art and displayed it in her home and garden. I think her painted Mrs. Butterworth’s bottles and her beautiful quilts were some of my favorites. I don’t remember her ever selling them.

Sharon IrlaHow many paintings do you have to your credit, and how long does it take you to complete each one?

Excluding murals, roughly 40, give or take. Some murals have taken several months because they were either very large and/or done in the trompe l’oeil style, which means “to fool the eye,” so they have to look very believable and take much longer to paint. On average, my paintings take two to three months to complete, unless I also make a custom-designed frame for it, which can add another three weeks or so.

Where do you get your ideas for art pieces?

(Inspiration) can shower you in a matter of seconds or simmer on the back burner for years until the last ingredient comes along. Much of my work is influenced by my Cherokee heritage, so, in that sense, there are many bread crumbs along the way, but (it) doesn’t always result in a painting about Cherokees. For instance, the painting “Save Xingu” speaks to the environmental destruction and genocide that is happening to South American tribes. As an indigenous American, it’s not hard to relate to their plight. But … a close-up photo of Chief Raoni’s aged but courageous eyes … moved me to tears and inspired the painting. The emotion marries the ingredients in the pot. But inspiration is everywhere. The heart tells us what to zero in on.

Where do you paint, and where can your works be found?

I work out of my studio based in (the) Cherokee Nation. The best place to see where my works are being exhibited is on my website, www.sharonirla.com.

Have you mentored young or new artists?

Yes, I hold workshops from time to time, and it always amazes me how anyone can paint with enough patience and the right techniques. But the goal of the workshop is not to have the students emulate my style of painting. Some of my students are artists in their own right and just want to add to their bag of tricks. The newbies will do that, too, as they develop their own style.

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May 2018

The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

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600 Riverwalk Terrace
Jenks, OK  74037
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Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Drive
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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4100 S. Riverside Dr.
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Telephone: 918-596-2001
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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Cost: Free with admission

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Oklahoma City Museum of Art
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
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Telephone: 918-495-6000
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Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

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McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

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Cost: Free

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108 Contemporary
108 E M.B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: 108 Contemporary
Telephone: 918-895-6302
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Cost: 0.00

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10901 South Yale Ave
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Contact Name: Candace C
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Cost: FREE

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21101 East 101st Street
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mohawk, LaFortune, Veterans-Jenks, BA Events Park
Mohawk Park-East Side Pond; LaFortune Park-51st / Hudson St.; Veterans Park-Jenks; BA Events Park-21101 E. 101st St.
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Sponsor: Zebco
Telephone: 1-800-494-3224
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Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

A leading figure in both contemporary film and art, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (born 1970) has developed a singular, realist-surrealist style in which the portrayal of the everyday alongside...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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108 Contemporary
108 E M.B. Brady St.
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View map »


Sponsor: 108 Contemporary
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More information

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Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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View map »


Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

More information

It's a girl thing. Tulsa Metro Sound a cappella Show Chorus presents a Chocolate Remix. Come see what fun things we do weekly as we live, laugh and love our music. If you want to rekindle...

Cost: 0.00

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10901 South Yale Ave
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View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Metro Sound
Telephone: 918-352-6091
Contact Name: Candace C
Website »

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