Sharon Stone Exorcises Pain Through Painting

The soon-to-close solo show “Sharon Stone: Welcome To My Garden” at C. Parker Gallery is a brutally honest purging of the actress' past.

A blond woman in a red pantsuit stands in front of a large canvas featuring an abstract landscape in muted colors
Sharon Stone with her painting ‘Bayou’. Courtesy C. Parker Gallery

To this day, people think of Sharon Stone as the femme fatale in Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, but she is so much more than that: award-winning actor, mother and—this may be news to some—artist. After the actress suffered a stroke in 2001, she began painting full-time in her Los Angeles home studio.

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Nineteen examples of her artistic output are on view in her soon-to-close solo show, “Sharon Stone: Welcome To My Garden,” on view at C. Parker Gallery in Greenwich, CT. What exactly is in Stone’s garden? A lot of weeds, some flowers and a forest of insight.

Unbeknownst to many, Stone has been painting since a child. Her aunt Vonne created murals in her childhood home, and Stone studied painting in college. When Stone had the stroke, she was given a 5 percent chance of survival. It took her seven years to recover, and art offered a path to healing that acting didn’t.

“I tried to hide [the resultant brain seizure disorder] for many years because I wanted to make my way back in the business,” she told AP in October. “And if you have a disability, that doesn’t really work in my industry. And so, I hid my condition for many, many, many years. And that’s who I am.”

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It wasn’t until the pandemic hit in 2020 that Stone took her art career to the next level. Ironically, a friend mailing her a paint-by-numbers set led her to create her own large-scale compositions. For Stone, the return to art was explorative, experimental and a way to exorcise personal demons.

One piece in the show is called River, an eerie painting that looks like a ghostly body rolling down a stream that references her godson (her brother’s child), who died of crib death. “It was so hard for me to understand, my whole family was just nuts,” she said onstage during a talk with art critic Jerry Saltz at the 92nd Street Y. “It was good I had this experience, but I came home and asked, what is this all about?”

Stone’s brother, Patrick Joseph Stone, died this past February at age 57. She then went to a psychic who told her: “Your brother is sitting next to your father near a river.” She saw them at this river in the afterlife. “I don’t know when we die, if our soul goes to other places,” Stone told Saltz. “Those other places feel so near.”

Another painting, Reflections, is a triptych depicting pink clouds amid a turquoise landscape, while Unpinned depicts a giant psychedelic butterfly, which feels like a personal transformation piece. “It’s more an emotional release from structure,” she added.

Meanwhile, a piece called Bayou, painted in 2022, is one of the strongest pieces in the show. It shows a giant tree in a misty dreamscape with warm pastel hues that call to mind cotton candy. Mostly, Stone works intuitively, though sometimes she feels like someone else paints through her. Bayou is a testament to that. “I do think a Japanese man lives inside me, sometimes I have to put on Japanese music,” she said. “I really think I sometimes have to get out of the way so I can paint. Sometimes it’s Japanese-like symbols because this person is trying to write. I just let it happen.”

An abstract painting in two parts dominated by thick lines of saturated color
‘City Lights’, Sharon Stone, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy C. Parker Gallery

This solo show is a brutally honest purge of her past—put on in a time when many people would be hard-pressed to be that honest with themselves—and that’s what makes it so compelling. Sure, her paintings are misty, dreamy and pleasant to look at, with their comforting clouds of color (she uses a lot of pink, pastel hues and white), but it’s the backstory behind each piece that gives her paintings their meaning.

We are no strangers to celebrities taking up the paintbrush, whether it’s Adrien Brody (who likes to paint fish), Sylvester Stallone (a colorful abstract painter) or Pierce Brosnan (who started painting after his first wife died in 1991). Both the press and the public tend to be forgiving of bad celebrity art—too forgiving, perhaps—but there is no denying that their output tends to be less conceptual and more diaristic, which can be refreshing. The art world gets too caught up in abstracting ideas to a point where they mean little to anyone except art world insiders, rather than embracing accessibility. Celebrity art brings more people into the fold and more attendees to art museums and galleries, globally.

Stone’s garden is growing, and she is still watering all her plants. But she acknowledges that some weeds need to be pulled. There’s a famous saying “Don’t water your weeds,” which taps into one 2022 painting she calls It’s my garden, asshole.  It symbolizes the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ spirit we are all hoping to capture in 2024. “It’s an intoxicating promise when you get presented with these last-minute flowers,” she said. “This piece is about the shedding of that bullshit in my life.”

A diptych painting featuring curved organic shapes
‘Amelia’, Sharon Stone, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy C. Parker Gallery


Sharon Stone Exorcises Pain Through Painting