Her room is immaculate, save for the papers and notebooks on the desk. The chime of a dream catcher on the wall is interrupted as Tara closes the window and sits down, cross-legged, on her bed. Some of her drawings are up on the cupboard, with a gemstone chart stuck on her door. Looking at it, I can identify some of the stones on her windowsill. A tinge of citrus lingers in the air, and Tara moves to tidy her bed, which she thinks is less than presentable.
“Art is the only thing I focused on.”
Tara the Artist
Tara Dena Jack is an artist. She always has been. From her days in nursery school, to high school at Hellenic, and now studying towards her Bachelor of Fine Art. That she was meant to be an artist, Tara never doubted that. “It (art) has always been a strong point, since I’m not really academic.” Tara points to the paintings stacked on top of her bookcase as proof. Even when she’s meant to be studying, her fingers itch for pen and paper and Tara draws instead. “Art is an outlet for me.”
As happy as she is with her degree and career path, art wasn’t always her first choice. For a time, music held sway. “I started music when I was 4 or 5, and I started playing the clarinet when I was 14, so in Form Two,” Tara says as she adjusts her legs to get more comfortable. “I also taught myself basic piano, so I can play a few tunes.” When it came down to choose between art and music, the decision boiled down to what gave Tara more creative license. Art it was.
“I can express myself more with art. Art is more liberating.”
What of her art itself? Tara scrolls through her Instagram and flips through her book of doodles as she talks about her style and what she’s created. I notice a lot of pencil work and inking, but not much in the form of paintings. A slight frown on her mouth as she readjusts her seating again and ties up her hair. “With painting, I don’t have a style that I’ve developed. With my pencil work, it’s more detailed. I like stuff like pencil work and pen work, stuff that you can control.” Her pencil work is stunning. Images of skulls and candles flit across her phone screen. Tara’s proud of her pieces, but she admits that her work is dark. “In O Level, I did kitsch, still-life, like ‘pretty pretty girly stuff’. But I find skulls more interesting. You think about a painting of a skull more than just a painting of a flower.”
“I always try incorporate a hidden meaning in my art.”
Tara fiddles with her hairbands as she talks about her plans for the future. She wants to get her art out there for people to see – something she hasn’t been doing. She thinks back to her art teachers in high school and how they’ve shaped her life so far, and continue to play a role in deciding her future. “Most of my role models are my art teachers. They see what I’m capable of, they’re more confident in my abilities than I am.” It was Greg Shaw, her high school art teacher and artist in Harare, who pushed Tara to develop her skills as an artist. It was her O Level art teacher who convinced Tara to study Fine Art at Rhodes University. Their influence has motivated Tara to pay it forward and become an art teacher and artist.
Tara the Zimbabwean
Would she work in Zimbabwe? Tara pauses, and takes a breath before responding. “I’m drawn to political stuff.” She tilts her head in inference. “Political stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do that. And I can’t do kitsch stuff either.” I ask her the question again. She looks up, frowns and responds, “I don’t know.”
To see more of Tara’s work, check out her Instagram.
All the art pieces in this story are property of Tara Dena Jack.