How did you first get involved in art?
Fortunately, I was born into the art of responding constantly to life in a material way. My childhood house was an ever-shifting work that my father made. His skills made walls come down or go up along with plumbing and wiring to satisfy his large family's ever-changing space needs. And he did it with skill and beauty.
The first things I remember doing are making things that I wanted, the first of which were clothes for my Tiny Tears doll. Mom gave me fabric scraps, scissors, needle and thread. I was five. When she saw my frustration as I angrily ripped up my failed attempts to make a pair of pants for my doll, she began to teach me her skills with lots of time and patience. I became a constant stitcher of applique pictures, clothing and other useful things.
Upon entering school, I became aware of "art" as something outside myself. My first grade teacher had a reproduction of Jean-Francois Millet's "The Angelus" at the front of the classroom. That was a picture that someone had made of faraway people going about their own lives. The image had made its way down to me. Wow! That is awesome.
As I progressed through school, my teachers often rewarded me for my illustrated childish essays that I never tired of making. I started copying newspaper photos with pencils in a sketchbook. My father taught me carpentry skills. Under his tutelage, I made frames and stretched canvas for artwork that I formally studied in high school. He helped me build whatever I wanted.
During all these formative years, I was also studying piano, teaching myself basic guitar and recorder playing. That active household with its energy and action made me who I am, allowing me to order the world into beauty.
Do you have any formal education or art-training?
My high school teacher taught me comprehensive color theory along with hands-on exploration of different painting genres. She also assigned each student the task of learning a medium on our own. I chose silk screen printing. She recognized my affinity for all of it. With her encouragement, I decided to study painting and drawing at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, just a mile from our home. I earned a BFA. Professor Harvey Sherman Harris was my biggest influence there.
During this time, I studied painting with Milton Resnick and Nathan Oliveira at the Kent Blossom Summer Art Program. Resnick taught me to paint my own stories. He said, "Don't follow your brush into the canvas."
What did he mean by that?
When you put a brushstroke on the canvas, leave it like you mean it and move on. Don't scrub it in and fuss with it. It's what Vincent van Gogh does well. It can, of course, be less obvious when the paint is not so thick. I think the way I paint certainly influences the collages where each stroke is a piece of torn colored paper.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
For my body of collage work, I draw on the visual transformation that rain brings to a landscape. Pierre Bonnard's magical surfaces resulted from his masterful use of analogous colors in fields all over his paintings. I think of that all the time that I work. I like to make my works as visually tactile as mosaics are.
I also draw inspiration from the self-transformation that comes through life's tragedies. I tear hand-colored paper. Life has ripped me to shreds a few times. Illusions I had about what my life would be are in the trash can. My collages' titillating surfaces would not exist without the white, ragged edges. It would be flat; just as I would not be who I am without my particular set of life events. So, I embrace the edges of me and the paper. This was not a thing I set out to do in the artworks. It all just evolved. When I realized why I work this way, it all made sense. Evolution happens through persistent exploration and learning how to move forward through the mistakes. I eventually did learn how to make that pair of pants for my doll.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
The Foundry Art Centre came up when I found a call for collage artists. Prior to that, I was unaware of it; I have since found out that it's a significant art center. Through the FAC, I am discovering compelling works by other artists.
What are you currently working on?
There is more to do in my collages. I am introducing discarded materials, as I did in the award-winning piece Sun on Docks. I will continue this work for the foreseeable future. In addition, I continue to paint - mostly landscapes that often inspire a new collage. Musically, I am refining a few songs I've written that reflect personal experiences.
Your collages have a painterly quality to them, which make complete sense since your own paintings inspire them. What qualities or facets does paper collage lend to an image or landscapes that paint does not?
I can manipulate the paper with my fingers and feel it, scrub it, mark it up and tear it. I love that tactility. And the tactility is also visual, making the surfaces dance.
How do you connect with people through your art?
I have always taught art in one form or another to people of all ages, usually in classes at community organizations. I currently offer classes in mosaic, painting and printmaking at Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland. I also serve as Gallery Attendant there where I enjoy talking to visitors about current exhibitions. Being a professional framer is another way I connect. When I sketch performers at concerts and paint plein aire, I connect to observers who ask about the work in progress.
Through social media, I share images of my work as I make them. Many people respond with great enthusiasm. I keep my website updated with information about the works.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not creating art?
I like to have potluck parties with friends. I devour audio books while I work on the pieces. If not books, it's music. Watching the sunrise from my kitchen every morning is inspiring. There are music groups whose concerts I attend. And I may be the biggest fan of my son Julian, who plays jazz in Baltimore.
And finally, why do you create art?
Growing up in a large creative and emotional family with its share of functional peculiarities was sometimes overwhelming. The plastic arts and playing music enabled me to make sense of my world through tactile means that produced beauty. Having beauty come out of struggle is certainly an incentive. I am grateful that I had the desire and the wits to take advantage of all the tools that were and still are offered.
You can view Sheryl's award-winning artwork in our galleries through September 23, 2016 in "Putting It Together: The Art of Assembling".
Article by Jillian Schoettle.