Around Charleston, Lisa Shimko is famous for a tomato—or rather, half of one. The artist behind Tomato Half, the image of the 2008 Charleston Farmers Market, Shimko has seen her work displayed on posters, printed in newspapers, even silk-screened on totes and aprons. “I like to draw attention to the beauty inherent in the natural details of everyday objects, like the seed patterns revealed when a tomato is cut,” she says.
For Shimko, creating this logo was a way to encourage people to be mindful of what they eat. Many of her pieces also highlight the environmental issues inherent in food production. “I believe my artwork needs to be a tool, a vehicle for something bigger,” explains the artist, who discusses biofertilizers and endangered wildlife in the same breath with which she muses about the surrealism of her colorful paintings of fruits and birds.
Growing up, this tomboy reveled in the natural beauty of her rural Pennsylvania home, playing in the local creek and hunting for bugs. After high school, she earned a BFA in painting at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. While her friends migrated to New York’s art scene, she headed to Hilton Head, where she drew inspiration from the diverse coastal wildlife. Eventually, Shimko made her way to Charleston, her “naturalistic to abstract” style attracting a following through shows at 53 Cannon and Plum Elements.
She’s explored various media, including ceramics and wood, yet looks at it all as painting. “Everything can be broken down into orchestrating space,” she says. Now, Shimko works primarily with acrylics, often incorporating organic materials like sand and saltwater for texture. And her work is often exhibited with information on biodiversity, sustainable farming, and wildlife preservation. In fact, proceeds from a spring 2009 show at Plum Elements
will benefit The Sustainability Institute.
For all Shimko’s consciousness-raising efforts, at the end of the day it boils down to her own emotional sustenance. “Art is the way I digest everything and offer it to others.”