Southern California-based multidisciplinary artist Tony Pharo’s work is conveyed with a raw and transparent spirit, celebrating emotion and conviction. With a visceral color palette and a disarmingly playful tone, he tears down barriers to the soul.
Eight years ago, Pharo left his home in New York and set out for California to change his life and find direction. What he now knows as a cry for help, Pharo took action and has been in recovery and sober for seven years.
“My depression started when I was about 20 years old, I’m 34 now,” said Pharo. “I honestly had no idea what the symptoms were, and it was just suggested that I see a therapist again because my alcohol and drug use was getting out of control. It wasn’t until I got into a local outpatient alcohol and drug rehab where I began to have any light shed on my mental difficulties. Coming from a small town in upstate New York, at the time, these topics were not openly discussed nor approached in the circle of friends and relatives I had.”
When it was suggested to Pharo that he channel his emotion into art as part of his recovery, it was then when he uncovered the rawness of his creative voice as a true conduit of his generation and their potentially pointless search for meaning and purpose amidst a cruel life in a flawed world.
“Since moving to Southern California, I have been on a roller coaster of life lessons and growth from those life lessons. I had originally moved here with $1,200 and a suitcase. Now, I have a sustainable job in sales and that job, along with the self-work and the newfound family I’ve been gifted since moving here, allows me to pursue my passion(s) and find different things that inspire me. Along the way, I found myself in therapy and ultimately my work in therapy and the constant pursuit of growth and progress is what landed me in painting back in October of 2021.”
Pharo’s main motivation for his art is the therapeutic aspect and the insight it provides, but he also finds himself gravitating towards always wanting to push people’s thinking, and this creative voice that he’s found is the perfect way for him to do that. As Pharo often struggles with having high expectations of people in general, this creative channel allows him to voice what he likes in a constructive and, obviously, creative way.
“Not listening to my mind and what it likes to tell me is one of the most difficult things about being an artist as it can turn into the biggest roadblock for me. If I allow myself to believe those thoughts, it can turn into me not continuing to create, not completing things I need to do for the business side of things or creating a month’s worth of stress and anxiety that affects everything. If I allow that, with how early I am in this art world, it can hinder everything across the board, and I do not like to rest on my trajectory. I aim to partner with a well-established art gallery and a team of dealers by the end of year three.”
Completely self-taught, Pharo pulls inspiration from his adolescent experiences, as, according to him, “they are what shapes us,” and creates the thoughts, routines, and perspectives that we carry through today. He also aims to challenge thinking, perspective, ethnicity-based thinking, stereotypes, and racism, to make viewers pause, to challenge how things are presented or how people perceive things should be presented. This can be seen across his works, where you may find the word “ear” written on the canvas where the actual ear should be, or instead of a neat brain and colored in backdrop behind it, he leaves it wide open and filled it in with pastels and oil stick. You never know what challenges his works will present.
“I’m never afraid to experiment and try new ideas, as it is very important for what I do, not only in my painting but in my job, my life, and my relationships. What we do on a daily basis reflects in our business and reflects in us as people. When I feel discouraged, I like to tell myself, “fake it ’til you make it,” and if I can remember that long enough, usually whatever the venture, the painting I am creating, the relationship I am pursuing starts to form and I get a more clear vision of what I need to do, I then have more self-confidence, and I am overall more happy and content with myself, my life and my business life.”
In addition to painting, Pharo is an art collector himself.
“I was first introduced to art when I was gifted first Andy Warhol book a few years back. After that, I started searching deeper into the art world, stopping by galleries and falling in love with art from a collector’s perspective. Because of this, the first piece of artwork I purchased was a signed Andy Warhol print. These days, when looking for art to collect, I purchase based on the way that I feel. When something speaks to me, it is a part of who I am and what I relate to. I never judge based on how well known the artist is, I always buy what I love in the moment. To date, some of the artwork I own includes an original Matt Gondek, an original Jahlil Nazinga, an original Arkiv Vilmansa, a few Kaws prints, and a Basquiat print.”
Pharo has previously exhibited in New York City and Los Angeles. For more information on Tony and his works, check out his Instagram @tonypharo.