By Elizabeth Sturgeon | Photos by James and Rachel Culver
There are two sides to Sharonda “Jovonne” Fritz’s artistic identity—the first being Sharonda herself, and the imaginative, expressive spark she’s always had. Sharonda never called herself an artist but saw her interest in art as a “passion to herself” that she first remembers as a child, walking by Atlanta galleries with her parents.
A young Sharonda, who dreamed of the day she could buy her own art, soon became her twenty-something self in Lennox Square, finding the largest and most beautiful pieces she could find. She sat in her first apartment, unfurnished and undecorated, and faced the two framed purchases that she had just maneuvered through public transport to get home. “I really just loved looking at art,” she says. “That’s the way I perceived it in the beginning.”
Her second identity is Jovonne—Sharonda’s artistic alias whom she met 12 years ago in a search for her purpose and talents. Her middle name, Jovonne, fit the emerging personality drawn toward color, motion and the sanctity of art. Now, “Art by Jovonne” has taken off as a full-fledged collection of her acrylic paintings. “I received compliments for every creative thing I did,” Jovonne says. “It started to capture my attention.”
Since she moved to Shelby County five years ago, Jovonne has been searching for her place in the greater Birmingham community and continually searching in her painting, which is a spiritual artform for her. She paints on a large scale with vibrant acrylic paints and lots of movement through her textures and techniques.
To know Jovonne’s art and her style, one must observe her words, descriptions and techniques carefully as if she is reading a poem. Her work is spiritual and deeply rooted in her conversations and relationship with God, and all her brush strokes, specks of color and shapes on the canvas points back to the emotions she experiences and the understanding of the world that is revealed to her. She seeks to find beauty in all aspects of her life and her story, interconnecting confusion and conflict with peace that art can communicate.
Jovonne describes her process as searching—her curiosity building from a painting’s beginning to end—and it’s not something she sees the plans for at the start.
“You’re not aware of what you’re doing, and you’re searching for something,” she says. “My art has so much texture to it. When I begin a painting, my emotions can erupt from moment to moment. At one moment, I’m clawing through colors and texture, the next moment, pulled by conflict. Then I find calm as if I have made it through a storm.”
Jovonne says that, if art was not something spiritual to her, she imagines her art would resemble much more defined forms and imagery, but the abstraction is part of the emotional and reactive process. There is a boldness to her abstract style—lights and darks often come into contact, and bright yellows, oranges and reds twirl around hues of blues.
Movement in her pieces, which finds Jovonne powering throughout her art, is the collecting force of her work. She uses different textures depending on the narrative she’s telling—Pollock-esque swirling and splattered paint, or wide strokes still embodying the paint near scratched and blurred surfaces.
Sometimes, imagery will appear after she’s completed a piece. “I can see the faces being revealed and the broken wings,” she says. “I can see and feel those. It’s bigger than me, and it’s taking me to a place where I don’t really know what God is going to do next.”
Each piece requires trust in the process driven by her spiritual connections, making all her work deeply personal. Jovonne has continued to build trust as more people have seen her work and connected to it in the same ways she has, leading her to share her pieces under the “Art by Jovonne” name as she leans into her identity as an artist. As a real estate agent, Jovonne also uses her work to stage homes and bring out different architectural features.
Jovonne encourages others to embrace their creativity like she did over a decade ago. Established in her life, work and family, she still “felt a shift in the wind” as creative opportunities presented themselves, as did her talents.
“There are many different variations and forms of art,” Jovonne says. “It is not about it all being put on a canvas. There have been people who use Coke cans, old flip flops, leaves, fallen pieces of wood, trash, glass, old clothes. If you feel that art is your calling, look around you for art in that way.”
Jovonne sees her art continue to grow and evolve and is inspired by the moments she shares with viewers who feel what she feels through the work. That passion for art that she had as a child in front of gallery windows has not changed as she shares her own work with others. Her ultimate desire is for people all around the world to view her art as a spiritual inspiration.
“People see beauty in the narrative I tell,” she says. “When I see something small, I know the narrative will impact someone greatly.”
Including her home studio space, Jovonne’s Pelham home acts as her gallery. Her interior design style tends to be minimalistic and simple, creating the perfect canvas to display her pieces and her fiddle leaf figs. She welcomes those who are interested in her pieces to visit and see her collection. Jovonne hopes to make her work accessible, whether someone wants to purchase an original piece or a limited-edition print.
Recently, she showed her work at Willie Williams’ Studio 2500 in North Birmingham and is looking forward to more opportunities to connect with the surrounding art community.