Vanessa Starr

Vanessa Starr

Denver, CO

“I love to find the image within a bout of painting, pull it to the surface and then disguise it again."

Vanessa Starr (she/her/hers) is an artist who aims to continually learn, grow and make her daughter proud. Born in Los Angeles, CA, she moved to Hawaii as a child, growing up in a rural island environment. She was introduced to art through her mother who raised her amongst a community of creatives. Though her mom never had any formal art education, she was talented and loved to draw beautiful pictures of women, which Vanessa admired.

As Vanessa became an adult, she pursued her own path. Moving to Denver, Colorado, she traded the islands for the mountains. She began pursuing a career, had a daughter, and built a life in her new home.

Vanessa’s life changed when she went through a period of homelessness, which thrust her and her daughter into a world of uncertainty and scarcity. Thankfully, after this period of unrest, she found the incredible Reach program at Redline Contemporary Art Center in Denver, CO. The Reach program is an open format art studio that helps aspiring artists with diverse life experiences to develop creatively and professionally.

Vanessa shares, “One thing is for certain about homelessness, you can’t escape it without PTSD. It lives with you in some form for the rest of your life.” This is why Vanessa is eternally grateful to Redline for bringing art back into her life. She shares, “Nothing has been more curing for me than art. It has been a lifeline.

Since she dove back into her artistic pursuits, Vanessa has been delighted by the process. When starting a new piece, she typically lays the base coat of a color that she’s currently passionate about. Listening to other artists that inspire her, including musicians, poets and comedians, she lets their creativity lead her through playful mark making.

Vanessa enjoys the tactile feel of working with brushes and different mediums. She loves the responsiveness of heavily pigmented acrylics, but also incorporates spray paints, pastels, paint pens and crayons into her work. She finds delight in being able to create something unforgettable from very basic materials, which is an ode to her resourceful mother.

Inspired by her time in Hawaii, Vanessa’s work features bright, lush colors and organic compositions that excite the imagination. She exclaims, “It is not hard to be inspired by the beauty of tropical forests against bright blue waters. The cacophony of colors never leaves your mind's eye even when living in a high desert a mile above the sea.” With fluid-like drips and sweeping strokes of color, her work is reminiscent of the power, tranquility and enchantment of the ocean.

The lessons Vanessa has gathered through art-making have been plentiful and continually rewarding. She explains, “Art always gives me a true sense of myself and has allowed me to communicate even when words escape me or do not suffice. It allowed me to create beauty in tough or even hostile environments.” Through art-making, she’s learned to try new things and find her own voice. “I am braver than I thought I could be with my feelings,” she shares.

Vanessa’s greatest accomplishment is being a mom. Her daughter, who is autistic, constantly teaches her new things and “open doors I never even knew existed.” Vanessa is passionate about sharing art with children, helping them to tap into the creative tool for expression and therapy. She is currently working with her daughter’s occupational therapist to create an art program for children with autism.

Looking towards the future, she hopes to see her art adorn new walls, which makes her feel seen and loved. She wants to continue exploring new ways to be creative with her community as well as solidify her style and make cohesive collections of work. Beaming with excitement, Vanessa hopes ArtLifting’s credibility, support and connections will continue to lift her up to new heights. Most importantly, she hopes to make her daughter proud.

Vanessa is passionate about helping her peers who are still struggling with homelessness and unemployment. One of her dreams is to collaborate with the local group, The Longest Table, who serves free meals to the community, on a community art project. When she is not painting, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, swimming, and searching for unique finds in vintage shops. 

Bark - ArtLifting
Come Along - ArtLifting
Community - ArtLifting
Dawn Patrol - ArtLifting
Diamond Life - ArtLifting
Friends Indeed - ArtLifting
Just Me - ArtLifting
Off Key - ArtLifting
The Morning After - ArtLifting