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Vibrant Synergies Part 2: An Interview with Shara Hughes

For the Spring/Summer 2024 collection, Ulla Johnson collaborates with the celebrated Brooklyn-based painter Shara Hughes—a first for the brand. The collaboration began with a selection of three paintings from Hughes’ oeuvre, works that deeply resonated with Johnson’s aesthetic. “Tuck” (2021), “Ignoring the Present” (2018), and “Cherry in Lace” (2022) feature dreamlike settings of nature’s beauty: trees with undulating boughs and mottled points of light and dark complement a painting that features a resplendent sky centered around a floating sun with rolling clouds. Hughes’ breathtaking landscapes are rendered into prints that adorn fluttering frocks, structural outerwear, and timeless separates. 

For Part 2 of our interview, we visited Hughes in her Brooklyn studio following our Spring/Summer 2024 runway show to catch up on her go-to outfit, what living in the moment feels like, and her favorite thing in the world—her dog. 

Read Part 1 of this interview here.

Eugenie Dalland: Many artists have a favorite outfit or uniform that they wear all the time. Do you have one?

Shara Hughes: I've thought about this a bit. My first reaction is a jumpsuit because it’s comfortable and easy. But I do have drawers and drawers of floral dresses! I rarely wear something that doesn’t have lots of colors or patterns, so I want to say that's my uniform. A patterned floral dress, short or long, that can be worn on most occasions.

Where and when do you get your best thinking done?

In my studio or when I’m traveling. I get my best thinking done in the moment when I am making something.

Can you describe what being in the moment feels like to you?

It’s very intuitive. I'm really involved with the making and the thinking all at once. I go to my studio and think about my life, I react to the world and what's going on, personally and emotionally. I feel like if I think through an idea first before actually putting it on the canvas, it can lose some of the energy. And I never actually know exactly what's going to come out when I'm making the painting, which keeps it really fresh and playful and exciting for me.

Do you have other creative practices that help you get into the zone for painting?

Yes, I do all types of art making like ceramics and printmaking, and some sculpture. But outside of visual art, my other creative outlet out is exercising. Being a painter is a physically taxing job, and exercising gives you a sense of release. So when I spend time exercising in the mornings, I'm preparing myself to get to the studio each day. It's all a means to be able to get to this place to make something.

I love that. It reminds us that the body is also part of the art making process.

Totally! And I think there can be a sort of restlessness when you're not making art, or if you're in between projects, or you're about to start on a new artwork. So I feel like getting the energy out in some way can calm your body and your mind to get to the right place.

Which artists, of any genre, made a big impact on you? 

This changes almost weekly, but right now I'm thinking about a Swiss artist named Cuno Amiet.

What is a tool you use in your work that you can’t live without?

Normally I’d say "myself"! But I think I'll go with surfaces. A canvas, a piece of paper, a notepad. Any surface that I can get ideas out into words or visuals is really important.

What is something someone said to you that left an impact?

Someone recently quoted Theodore Roosevelt to me, and I've been repeating it to myself a lot recently. He said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

I want to know what you generally don’t get asked about, that you wish you did.

My dog! She’s the best. She’s my favorite thing in the world.