top of page


artist statement

I’m a conceptual installation/assemblage artist that creates site-specific and time-based environments, using a variety of media and technology. In my work I incorporate clay, found and rescued objects, recorded sound, photography, video, and printmaking, particularly silk-screen and polymer-plate generated images. The themes I draw on are based on my questions, insights, hopes, concerns, and conclusions about the world around me. I have always been fascinated by the connections between social and cultural phenomena and personal psychological experience. Human stories inspire me, fill me with admiration, and also terrify me. My work is at times painful, at times joyful, and always viscerally attached to the realities of contemporary life, my own and the lives of those who share this planet with me.


Tessie Barrera-Scharaga finds many ideas for her work in the creative tension between private subjective values and social concerns. She is a mixed-media installation/assemblage artist who draws a direct correlation between her artistic drive and process, and her experiences growing up in South and Central America. Catholic nuns introduced her to the poems of Ruben Dario, Gabriela Mistral, and Pablo Neruda, and thus began a life-long addiction to poetry and an appreciation for symbolism and metaphor. Her assemblage and installation pieces go beyond the boundaries of media, to the symbolic realm where both the conscious and unconscious minds are accessed. Ephemera takes center stage, and Barrera-Scharaga arranges her materials to allow for associations between the ordinary and the extraordinary; the rational and the irrational. 


Found objects are combined with paper, wood, metal, clay, fabric, video, and sound.  Unexpected pairings channel and challenge the viewers' collective memory: a chair obliterated by the lines of a poem; a wedding gown covered in clay; a house bandaged in surgical gauze. Her themes move from love and loss, to desire, transformation, and transcendence. Through her work Barrera-Scharaga directs the viewers' attention to a broad spectrum of personal, political, and environmental concerns.


Born in New York City of Colombian and Salvadoran parents, Barrera-Scharaga followed her family’s trajectories through the Americas (North, Central, and South) in her childhood and teenage years, returning to the U.S. to attend college. Though she has resided in California for most of her adult life, she continues to maintain a deep connection to her Latin American cultural roots. Tessie Barrera-Scharaga received a BFA in Spatial Arts from San Jose State University, and an MFA in Studio Art from Mills College. She lives and works in San Jose, California, where she has shown her work extensively. She also participates in art shows in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and abroad.


Recent shows include Living With Endangered Languages in the Information Age at Root Division in San Francisco, CA, Songs and Sorrows at the Oakland Museum, and most recently, Kindness as Resistance, at the Euphrat Museum, in Cupertino, CA. 


Tessie Barrera-Scharaga has been the recipient of grants from the Center for Cultural Innovation and the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs. She has also received recognition from local art organizations for artistic excellence, and awards for her leadership in community art projects.    

bottom of page