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Clarissa Shanahan is a Philadelphia-based fine artist. She holds a BFA from University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and is a Bread Scholar, a merit based full scholarship from UPenn, the first PAFA/UPenn student ever to be awarded. Originally from New York, she additionally studied painting at New York Academy of Art, The Art Students League, Isabel O’Neal Studio on full scholarship, as well as many private studios around NY.


Having been an educator and lecturer at PAFA from 2000 - 2018, Clarissa also is one of the first US-based teaching artists to be working with VAWAA, an international travel and arts organization, teaching students from around the world in both in-person apprenticeships, as well as lectures online. Her subjects run from symbolism and film-theory to applied decorative arts to film-related painting classes.

Prior to teaching, Clarissa’s career began with extensive professional experience in decorative arts. In 1993, she received an invitation from Friends of Vielles Maisons Francaises to restore a 19th-century horse carriage in Buxy, France. This led to producing work for private clients as well as commercial projects for American Express, The New York Museum of Natural History, Bendels, Fendi, Saks, Lord & Taylor and others. 


She then spent almost twenty years in the film industry as a scenic artist, producing sets for over 40 film and television productions. Additionally, she produced both original and reproduction paintings for numerous productions, including the Lee Krasner paintings for the film Pollock. Her credits include Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, Salt, Summer of Sam, Angels in America and Boardwalk Empire. She is a longtime member of the United Scenic Artists 829.


Her paintings have been exhibited in shows around the country, and is included in numerous private collections. 


My paintings are modern-day interpretations of historical figures, portraits and stories seen through the lens of film and pop culture. They are a composite of some fact, some fiction, and all largely informed by the subjective nature of time and memory.

Visual storytelling, in all its forms, brought me to work in the film industry for many years. I rely heavily on filmic influences, both aesthetically, and for their powers of visual narrative, I cast these paintings, as if roles in a film. Various archival and film references all get 'Frankensteined' together, to mesh eras, to create temporal layers, superimposing our pop cultural references and personal memory onto figures both championed by history and those forgotten.

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