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Boston artists’ collective gives self-taught painter first break

Kassmin Williams | 1/22/2014, 11 a.m.
On Jan. 26, Tarra Louis-Charles will present her paintings and jewelry in Boston for the first time during this month’s ...
Local artist Tarra Louis-Charles is showcasing her artwork in Boston for the first time during the RAW Boston Showcase on Jan 26.

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Tarra Louis-Charles says she draws inspiration from her lifestyle and Haitian background when painting.

At 4 years old when many children are consumed with watching cartoon shows, self-taught artist Tarra Louis-Charles was wrapped up in sketching them.

“It’s just something I never stopped doing. Growing up, I was always sketching and drawing,” Louis-Charles said.

In 2006, Louis-Charles began painting while taking an art class at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she majored in legal studies.

More recently, Louis Charles, 28, has started making prints of her paintings and turning them into necklaces, earrings and rings.

On Jan. 26, Louis-Charles will present her paintings and jewelry in Boston for the first time during this month’s RAW Boston showcase titled “Pixels.”

RAW is an independent art organization made up by artists and is located in more than 60 cities around the world.

The name of the showcase changes each month and is chosen by the RAW headquarters. On the last Sunday of each month, RAW Boston transforms Rumor Boston from its usual club scene to an underground art show.

For the last three years, the event has been used to highlight work from local artists, designers, jewelry makers, hair stylists, photographers and make-up artists.

As a new artist on the local scene, Louis-Charles said she is excited about being a part of the RAW Boston showcase and is grateful for the platform to network with other local artists and gain exposure.

Before RAW Boston, Louis-Charles said she found it difficult to locate opportunities to display her work.

“Honestly, it’s been really hard for me to find venues in Boston willing to showcase my artwork, so being a part of RAW is considered a blessing for me,” Louis-Charles said.

When asked to describe her artwork, the Somerville resident has a difficult time, but recognizes that the pieces are reflective of her Haitian background and her lifestyle.

“I would say I do more cultural or ethnic art and I portray a lot of women because I grew up with women,” Louis-Charles said.

Louis-Charles describes her mother and aunts as “very flamboyant, loud and very emotional,” on one hand and vulnerable on the other.

“When I look at [my art] myself, I see a sense of vulnerability in my work and I think it stems from my mother and my aunts and how there’s something in them they don’t really expose to the outside,” Louis-Charles said.

Having grown up exposed to Caribbean artwork, Louis-Charles gravitates towards bold colors when painting.

“It doesn’t seem right to me for a painting not to have a splash of color on it,” Louis-Charles said.

As a child, Louis-Charles moved around often. She was born in New York and moved to Massachusetts at age 5.

At 8, she moved to Florida for a year and then to Haiti for four years.

At 13, she moved back to the Boston area, but spent many of her summers in Canada.

Louis-Charles credits her hesitance to box her work into a single category to how much she moved as a child.

“I was exposed to how people are living, [their] emotions and how people interact and I picked up on a lot,” Louis-Charles said. “I think that’s why I think it’s difficult for me to describe or categorize my work because it comes from a lot of different things I’ve seen growing up.”

Louis-Charles will be joining more than 30 other artists, designers and performers for this month’s showcase.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit rawartists.org. The upcoming Boston Jan. 26 event goes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. with tickets for $15 when purchased online and $20 when purchased at the door.