Open Studio - Get Ready, Get Set, Go!!!

    This is my 'before' view of the studio space in July 0f 2008.  I was blessed to find a house with a walk-out Daylight Basement, including one wall of windows looking out over trees, a creek, and an empty field.   Over the months I have added massive amounts of lighting, covered the insulated walls with a patchwork of mattboard, old paintings on canvas, and tyvek.  This view is of the North end of the studio - you can see my lighting which is actually outdoor lighting with movable cans - - windows all along the right-hand side provide addition light during the day and a beautiful view of nature.  Along the left/back side of the studio I have multiple shelving units for supplies, storage of completed work. This image shows the double-sided counter-height workbench with storage that I purchased from Goody's going-out-of-business sale, they are also on casters and anchor the north central section of the studio . . . you can so the great windows on this end of the studio, as well.   My favorite spot in the studio: the wicker porch swing were I can meditate on nature right outside my window, read, research, enjoy some of my friend's artwork (see CASSIE, the shoe sculpture on the left of the window by artist John MacMullen) . . . all I need is a lampshade! Below is the South End of the Studio - future office/bedroom . . .   Side of the office/future bedroom end of the studio . . . 16'x22'  (above) Below, my last stop before art is shipped, any hanging devices, polishing, wrapping and packaging, love having a space set aside for this task . . .   Left view is of the workbench area - the central section of the studio - with lots of open space to move around . . . and storage for wood and boxes . . . of course, I have my refrigerator stocked with ice-cold Diet Cokes!     So I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my studio - - - it has been a long journey of waiting patiently, focusing on my specific needs (custom lighting and electrical outlets) and scrounging to find the perfect furniture and units for my needs - - - I have already created some new encaustic paintings and am working on several installation pieces and the space is very conducive to my creative process. I'm looking forward to continuing the improvements and organization - I can't tell you how fantastic it is after years of working in corners, garages, and dining rooms to have MY space, MY studio - exclusively FOR ART'S SAKE!
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What Defines Art?

Question posed:  Is Margaret 's Oppenheim's Fur Cup (actually titled "Object", 1936, created in Paris by the Swiss Artist) art?   My response: Any type of expression is art. A fun game to play is “Is this Art?” on link for Robert Rauschenberg the documentary they just did on him is phenomenal (I am so sad he died, I’ve never met him, but I was in his presence in 2004 at the Whitney Biennial opening) and he actually tells the story (in this documentary) of finding the goat in a thrift store in NYC, he was supposed to pay $50 but the guy went out of business before he finished paying . . .   and, he did many versions before the tire was the “one” . . . titled "Monogram", and referred to as combines.  1958-1959, Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist. What is important about this type of art (altering ready-mades or found objects) is that the focal object is transformed - just as in Oppenheim’s “fur cup” (a Dada creation) the utility of the object is negated and the artist (manipulator), [think of Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel   , third version shown, circa 1951 and Man Ray's "La Cadeau" - (image provided by www.MOMO.orgimage of right, 1958 copy of 1921 original) these can also be referred to as ready mades] . . . creates a reincarnation. To me this is almost a bigger talent than creating something from thin air, because you have to KNOW the essence of the item, deconstruct its tautology and change it enough so that the alteration stands up equally to the original inference. There is a syndrome that is a strong, fervent reaction to art: Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. [wikipedia definition] So I have had 2 episodes of Stendhal - one was at the OLD (my preferred) MOMA in NYC, standing in the DADA room, I thought they would need to call an ambulance. After studying art for years, I expected (and thought they deserved) for each piece to be in an altar or alcove all its own. I was stunned that the pieces were just squished together and grouped in vitrines . . . happy to see them, but felt that they were diminished by their placement. Note: The new MOMA is a thousand times worse. It is beyond bad. The architecture itself is great, but the way it is dis-organized and crammed, paintings grouped behind vitrines and propped on shelves - I am desultory.  Although the statement is that they designers followed the 'meandering' path of contemporary/modern art - I personally feel it sucks as an art viewing experience.  Guess I will never get a job or show there, huh????  But Andy Warhol was rejected for years, so who knows?! 2nd episode - 2007 standing inside the Romanesque cathedral at Ravenna, Italy. Victorians would have said I got the vapors (but I think that means gas, and that was NOT the case) - Donny took a photo of me with my mouth hanging open and tears streaming down my face, I looked like that all day. I am getting chills just thinking about it. Note: there is no way to photograph the entire visual of standing within Ravenna, because it is as if you are INSIDE a snow globe and glittering glass and metallic mosaics are flickering in the filtered light - above, below, and on all sides.  It was truly a sacred, transforming, spiritual event for me. Post script: I have used fur in some art work - it is very effective.
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Eat Your Words - Museum Installation 2010

oh, speaking of “donating for art” - I am making this constant, never-ending sculpture of crazy-quilted prescription bottles - and I received hundreds (of bottles) from everywhere - you put out a call and the people will deliver!!! To the right you see the first stage of the prescription bottle installation - I sent our requests and I received envelopes and boxes from the following: Nancy Hayes, Julie Anderson, Lydia Weaver, Lydia Weaver's Whole Water Aerobics class, Dr. Nancy Kelker, Andrienne Outlaw, Alicia Beach, Lloyd and Shirley Curry.  I hope I haven't forgotton anyone! The point being is that we are RE-USING an item prior to its location in landfills, thus clogging up nature for hundreds of years.  We are not even melting them and reshaping them - we have found something useful to do with them in their current  discarded stated!!!!!  Pre-Cycling!!!   This is how the prescription bottle piece turned-  COPING SKILLS, 48"h x 53"w x14"d, wood, mirror-floored shelf, crazy quilted attached prescription bottles.  Honors the help that myself and others receive from altered mood and anti-anxiety pharmaceutical assistant.  I am thankful for the joy I can now have in my life because I am not a raging lunatic anymore! BE PART OF 'EAT YOUR WORDS'  My next “community” piece is going to be “Eat Your Words” - it will be an acrylic-suspended table, with all clear acrylic dishes/silverware/bowls, etc. and the “food” will be colored paper printed with hurtfully email messages which have been sent and/or received. This idea came about when I had a dream that I was cooking fried chicken breaded with shredded words (one of my personal icons in my work) . . . so if anybody wants that nasty email from Uncle Fester to be part of the piece, email me a copy of said emails (you can edit names or addresses, but the papers will be shredded/cut) to: with “Eat Your Words” in the subject line If you prefer snail mail:  Sher Fick, 1023 St. Hubbins Drive (Studio), Spring Hill, TN 37174   Such as:  an entry might look like this: To: From:    (provide real name and address if you want to be listed in the exhibition catalogue - your name won't be with your words submitted, and REMEMBER the worlds will be shredded! Re:  Eat Your Words Installation "Well, I hope you feel good about yourself now that you made Granny cry on HER birthday.  Who do you think you are.  What gives you the right to take the attention away from Granny just to say you are pregnant with another brat.  You are getting too big for your britches, Girl!  You better watch yourself.  You gonna steal all Granny's money cause she feel sorry for you.  Over my dead body". I will also give credit to all donators in the exhibition catalogue, so send your name, address, with email along with it, so I can keep you posted and give credit where credit is due! Feel free to pass this information along - the more the merrier - and this series might take on a life of its own and last as long as the prescription bottle one - i.e. - my whole life! When Adrienne did her last piece (Shelter, see ) we had hundreds of volunteers . . . it is amazing to do community projects. I believe that with eat piece of paper that is donated, that we can erase those negative words from our minds as they will be ritualistically shredded and then used as a piece to great a fantastic social-interactive event.
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Too Many Thoughts To Think

I have so many thoughts to think (which I feel I should write down) that I couldn't even relax in a Bubble Bath.  Bubble-baths used to be my refuge.  Friends would call anytime between 4 pm - 6 pm and I would inevitably be in the bath . . . it was my 'me' time. Now my 'me' time consists of activities:  blogging (either here or on various sites, see: Creative Friends link), making art, marketing art, reading (to study for making art)memoirs and poetry or really GREAT fiction, prayer walking, playing Wii Fit, cooking, playing with and/or talking to my children, sometimes spending time with my husband and family. In essence, my life has been so great lately that I don't even feel the need for 'refuge.'   I guess the key is that I now have learned to do activities which also refuel my spirit and that keeps my cup full - and it is, literally, running over in activities of creativity. Yippee for 2009!
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7 Before 7 Feature Artist - Sher Fick & Writing/Marking Workshop = ART

I was so lucky to be invited as a Feature Artist in Jules Sterp's 7 Before 7 Blog Review It was quite an honor and the page turned out beautifully - thanks so much!  MY ART WEEK: This has been a busy "art" week with last Friday's opening at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN for their Regional Exhibition, plus electrician in the studio working on the new lighting and expanded outlets (encaustic work uses A LOT of electricity), and to cap off the week, I attended a great workshop with my art buddy, Aletha Carr ( at the Nashville Public Library.  It was co-taught by Ellen Rust (a poet/educator ) and visual artist Sue Mulcahy (whose work/series "Open To The Night" is now on exhibit at the library gallery).  We began with responsive mark making using graphite.  We learned to express, through marks, the sound of music and the smell of ginger, lemon, banana.  It was enlightening to view the similarities of another artist's expression of the same sense.  At left is my exercise, directions were: beginning with graphite mark, create a lifeline without lifting the graphite from the surface.  I began in the lower right hand corner, dragging and twisting the graphite to create "blooms" which represent my children and other major relationships, as I near the end at the upper left, my line becomes stronger and more focused - a direct correlation to my life. Following a lovely lunch from the Provence Cafe, we began the writing responses, writing free-style about objects provided (roots/pine cone/antler, of which we chose one) and a word ticket drawn from an envelope (I used root and the word "good"). Here is my response to the visual image of the ROOT and my word ticket/GOOD: Roots can be good. Roots can be bad. Fed from the well where I am found. Layers upon layers, filtered through time. Good for cleansing or poisoning the vine. Good for growth - spreading wide, Infiltration, rooted in time. Knotted and twisted, grasping for air - held in the hands of earth's mellow fair. Tangled and battered, growing and spreading - tripping me up, trials above. Roots condescend and fed with bile, cutting them out can take quite a while. Pulling and digging, Cutting, then mending, Roots can be good, but mine are offending. Offending the nurture needed and expected, tainting the cord of mother to child. Uprooting the past to discard in time. Toxic.  Burning.  Poisonous vine. Uprooted now, seeking new earth, re-birthed and replanted - unrooted divine Free now to spread, to grow and to grasp. Now unencumbered of poisonous past. Growing inward and outward, Good has been summoned, sweetness of new water erasing the past. Antidote found. Time will allow, roots will hold onto good things that last. Roots will refine, no longer confine. After several responses we adjourned to the gallery and wrote responses to various of Sue Mulcahy's Exhibit and then shared with one another. Here is my response to Sue Mulcahy's "Close Is Not Enough" drawing: Internal scapes Chasms divide Peering at memories Revealing and reveling Veering forward Pulled from the past Grasping transcendence Clasping remnants. Traversing Dissolving Signposts and markers misleading, benign. Sequence chaotic Silhouetted and open deluge divine Unbalanced, then broken Sutured and knifed Evoking wholeness bound by time. I attempted another response to "Open To The Night": Veiled in the darkness Formless and thick. Coating the earth Clinging and clawing. Queries are spoken Descending and dim Near far remembrance echo and utterance Filtering bright sky meets earth horizon enlighten breaking the dearth the spirits soaring and sighing Upward and outward absorbing moments cradling time unseen, unspoken protected from site needless emotions bound and unbroken +++++++++++++++++++++++++ It was an amazing day shared by all.
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Scarecrow Installation - Vincent Van "Cr"ogh's "S(c)a(r)y Night"

Here are a few views of the scarecrow I created for Cheekwood Art and Garden's Fall Celebration ( Van "Crogh's" face was created over a hard floral Styrofoam ball, covered with crazy quilted burlap and then embroidered.  His "hair" was attached via a rug hooking technique.   I just love creating art that will amuse and entertainment the children, as well as their parents and other family members. If anyone is in the Nashville area, stop by Cheekwood and enjoy its beautiful 50 acre botanical garden, award winning restaurant, and, of course, the art museum! Fall is my favorite time of year - I was so happy to be a part of such a creative event.  I can't wait to see all the other scarecrows!!! For Art's Sake, sher
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Even When We Feel Static, Progress Is Occurring

Even though I feel many days that "I got NOTHING done" - I can look back on the last 7 days and know that progress is being made. Artistically:  I was juried into another regional exhibition for contemporary art - this exhibition will be at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN - a jewel of an art center, literally, in the middle of nowhere - but they have fantastic exhibitions and programs.  This is their 10th Annual Regional Exhibition covering all of the Southeastern States. I will be exhibiting SANCTUARY, 36" x 36" x 36", Mixed Media Installation.  Materials: vintage crinoline/lace/wire/bird's nest/robin's egg/kozo paper/ink/encaustic. The viewer will bend over from the waist to look down into the assemblage, which will be installed on the floor. After creating this piece I saw  A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and I was enamored of the ending where he mentions that the Boudelaire's "found a sanctuary, no matter how small" everywhere they lived.  As a woman/human, I feel I have to maintain an inner sanctuary where I can go - it is where I hatch my plans and nurture my soul.  The second piece that will be exhibited is "MYTH OF INNOCENCE", an altered rubber doll.  9" x 4" x 3" . . . it refers to some personal icons (safety pins) and the idea of our outer shell (here a girl in her "Sunday best" underclothes and shoes) and our inner strength and resilience (the built-in altar). Materials: Found 1950's rubber doll, vintage lace, acrylic paint, liquid lead, acid, gold-leaf, safety pins (represent the "christian" school dress codes which required safety pins in all slits of skirts and between gaping buttons, and to hold down wrap-around skirts, etc.) I would love to hear back from you, my wonderful viewers/readers, what these art pieces say to you, I learn the most from feedback and can never really be offended as I know all comments are useful to my future pieces. So, what do you think?  Do you see any universe symbols that I didn't even realize I used? Personally: The studio is coming along and I only have about 3 more van loads of supplies that my wonderful hubby, Donny, is promising to get out of storage this weekend.  Isn't he gorgeous???? We celebrated our 17th anniversary this weekend, not counting the 1.5 years of living in sin before . . . Here he is on the boat between Murano and Burano, Italy.  Our first day there after about 20 hours of planes, trains & boats . . . Anyway, I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for his belief in me and his support through the college years, the paxil years, the pregnancies (9 mos. x 3 of puking and hospitals and bed rest), births, breastfeeding, and he is always the primary caregiver once he is home . . . he is a catch!  And, no, you can't have him - I am his, he is mine. We don't believe in any of that - you complete me, Jerry McGuire BS - we are each independent beings with our own interests - he plays tennis, basketball, and Tiger Woods Golf on the Wii, and he is a very gifted nature photographer . . . I paint, antique, read, blog, photograph, knit, crochet, bake . . . and we let each other have our own fun and then get together for major fun - together we like to hike, kayak, make up CSI homicide scenes (then photograph them), no kidding, play Wii, scout out waterfalls . . .watch the birds . . . it is a simple life (except for the 3 busy kids!) Work:  so now I am working on 15 ink illustrations for an art history book: Faking Ancient America by Dr. Nancy Kelker and Dr. Karen Bruhn . . . I also created the cover art of some "fake" Pre-Columbian masks.  I am also working on finishing the Vincent Van "Cr"ogh Scarecrow for Cheekwood Museum. I'm busy, but happy.  Spending lots of time on Haven' Kimmel's blog and then remember I might want to actually post on my own! Here are some updates on the kids: Claire, turning 6 in 2 weeks, is enjoying 1st grade and making many new friends.  She is wild about the new tire swing we hung up in the 300 year-old huckleberry tree we are lucky enough to have in our backyard. Here she is being the main nurturer for SNAPPY, our new, tail-less kitten.  Snappy is named after Lauren's favorite Monday night restaurant, Snappy Tomato, the pizza buffet. Other names we considered: Waldo, Pompeii, Ash . . . Snappy won out.  But Claire and I usually call her "OOpsey!" Dylan, the soon to be 16 year old is  busy taking driver's ed (god save me), ROTC, Drill, Forensics and Latin Club - he is busy!  He continues to astound me with his philosophical insight, intelligence, and purity of heart.  We are blessed to have a gifted mentor for him at his school, Ms. Z, who is always there for him as he navigates his way through an athletic crazed school, below his level teachers and classes and generally helps push him from behind while I coax from the front - two more years and he will be off to college - we have so little time to prepare him for the big world. Dylan also has this great taste in music: Beatles, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones . . . it goes on and on - and he is an actor and even sang 2 solos in the MusicMan this summer at the Algonquin in Manasquan, NJ - I can't wait to see what he decides to do for his life's work . . . we are so proud and admiring. Lauren, 14, has started babysitting and otherwise spends her time on-line, on her cellphone or chattering incessantly to me after school, and to us after dinner, and until we tell her to go to bed . . . she has been doing egg experiments: you soak an egg in white vinegar for 24 hours and the shell dissolves (she can tell you why), then you just have the membrane sack, the whites and the yolk, which you can see, and pick up and it is like jello (don't squeeze)....then you soak it in food coloring water over night and turns that color, but translucent - it is so awesome, she says you can throw it at something and it will splatter everywhere - it is gorgeous and I want to photograph a bunch of them.  Lauren is so gorgeous and beautiful and I am frozen in fear for her in this big bad world. so, we are busy - the kitten knocked over the hermit crab tank, the moles are taking over the yard, I have 52 mosquito bites . . . but all is well in our little corner of the world. sher
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Hiatus Ended

It is unbelievable that I have pulled an ostrich for the last few months. OVERWHELMED would be the only word to describe my state-of-mind. Fabulous things have happened since I last posted . . . 1.   We FINALLY, after 10 months, sold the house 2.    We bought our dream house with an 1,100 sq. ft walk-out basement studio for me. 3.    I am now trying to balance decorating and furnishing the house, pulling a rabbit out of the hat to set-up the studio, settling the kids in school and after-school activities . . . 4.  Maintaining a busy exhibition and commission schedule. Anyway, I'm back.  Ready to conquer the world.  I've been doing tons of reading, researching, sketching, dreaming, sharing, and am ready for several new series of work as a result of this low energy ebb - as is all things, my life is cyclical and I feel on the output upswing! Here is the empty (pre-purchase view of the studio) i.e., my "blank canvas" - still figuring out how to set it up, run some electricity, etc. So I am back in the saddle and will be posting with more regularity . . . For Art's Sake,
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Made it into the SEJE 2008 Biennial

At left, KERPLUNK, has made it into the SOUTHEASTERN JURIED EXHIBITION 2008, A Biennial Competition for Artists in a Twelve-State Region, which is held at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, AL I'm really excited about this exhibition as it is highly competitive, it has a great contemporary curator and provides a fabulous catalogue - I'd have to say that my hard work is really starting to pay off and that I am beginning to feel the fruits of my labor. I'm also getting revved up for working in the studio again - really interested in creating some of the installations that I have been imagining over the last 4 months of production on Rapunzel - the new works will be delicate and evoke the same type of childhood innocence that was coming forth in the Childhood Game series . . . will keep you posted! This Biennial will be exhibited from July 11 - Sept 14, 2008.  The opening is the afternoon of July 13th (Sunday) - which I don't get to attend because it is the same weekend as my niece's wedding.  If you are planning on going, let me know and maybe we can meet there another weekend! For Art's Sake, sher
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Happily Ever After - Rapunzel's Tower Unveiled

Installation on Rapunzel's Tower went great!  In fact, I was finished 2 days early! Here I am with artist Denise Johnson (me on the left, Denise on the right) at the Designer Party given May 21st. Cheekwood knows how to put on a spread - the Brie with honey, brown sugar and grapes reminded me of Italy! Wednesday was the first day we got to see our fellow artists' designs installed. This year's selections were fun-filled and I especially enjoyed Kristina Arnold's "Three Billy Goats Gruff" installation.  Another favorite had to be the "Three Little Pigs" by Andee Rudloff - especially seeing Andee trying out her own slide!   From the time we arrived on Saturday morning Rapunzel's Tower was swarmed . . . Here are the first visitors descending the hill . . . I really had to catch my breathe - but it really couldn't have gone better - the smiles on the parents' faces at times out-shined their childrens' - literally, the best compliment possible. We knew when we saw parents spreading out blankets and camping out around the Tower that we had a hit on our hands! Since I finished early I decided to add just a few additional elements: a birdhouse based on the model I presented to the Curator back in January, a balance beam (built by my husband, Don), and a mailbox. They were all a great hit and gave ample opportunity for the children waiting to climb the rock walls or get their turns in the sandboxes, to have some fun, too: This blond darling is using the ringing bell as a microphone or megaphone - I think she thought she was talking to Rapunzel!   And here you can see some of my family getting in the "balancing act": at front, my niece, Grace Victoria (6) followed by my daughter Claire (5) and niece Morgan (10). One of the best surprises of the day was the special notes left by admirers and potential "Prince Charmings" to Rapunzel - how adorable is that?!  The above image is thanks to fellow artist and friend, Aletha Carr. The day was a blur and I now understand what my teenagers mean by saying "I'm skyin' ."  That is exactly how I felt. Here's to all the people that made my day so fabulous: my sisters Lisa and Susan for bringing their families (from Indiana and South Carolina) to share my joy, my mother (from Illinois)for her proud smile, my brother-in-law Steven (from Kentucky) for bringing his great wife, Shawn, and their daughter Taylor JUST FOR THE MORNING - I'm so glad we all got to enjoy luncheon on the deck at Cheekwood's Pineapple Room - it was a true delight! Additional thanks to: artist Denise Johnson for the Enchantress panel, to Selena Long for the Queen/King panels, to Aletha Carr for helping install and photography (not to mention our lovely art days), to hubby Don for putting up with me and helping whenever and however he could, to my kids for not abandoning me, to Leigh Anne Lomax for her great help as Cheekwood Garden Director . . . the list goes on and on . . . I feel that I have climbed the golden stair, thanks for your assistance and needed "boosts". My side of the family . . .
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TAKE CARE: The Art, Science and Bioethics of Motherhood

The TAKE CARE Exhibition has found a home on the web:

Please view the exhibition essay by Veronica Kavass, New York Based Writer-Curator, in the Exhibition Brochure.  You may also view the included artists and their websites:

Annette Gates - Kristina Arnold - Adrienne Outlaw - Sher Fick - Lindsay Obermeyer - Monica Bock - Sadie Rubin - Jeanette May - Libby Rowe

Many thanks to Adrienne Outlaw for organizing the critical essay, brochure and website!!!

I'm really looking forward to exhibiting with such a fine group of strong female artists.


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Rapunzel Installation Finished!

  Rapunzel is finally ensconced in her tower - finished the installation yesterday, May 19th. Whew - I'm exhausted.  Thanks for help from Don (hubby), Denise Johnson, Selena Long, and Aletha Carr. It was great to finally see all the components merged together for the first time - I had never been able to have all three levels together in the studio. Looking forward to seeing it "in action" with the children on Saturday and also seeing the previews of the other installations Wednesday night at the Designer's Party. A friend reminded me this week that after I moved to Nashville in 2003 we had visited Cheekwood and that I was so enamored of the Museums and the Gardens and mentioned at that time that I would love to exhibit there . . . wow!  It really confirms that "Reality is a Dream Enacted." I added the birdhouse, sandtoys, and the mailbox after the fact and my husband built in a balance beam nearby . . . just a few more things to see and do spread out around the footprint of Rapunzel's Tower. Cheers! For Art's Sake, sher
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In the Studio . . .

  Just a few images from the studio . . . The roof of Rapunzel's Tower which will have a tolling bell installed inside; Rapunzel's head is completed; my daughter Claire helping out with painting the pegs; my studio break of some fantastic Pomegranate wine; you can also see the portraits painted by Selena Long of the King and Queen.  All is going well and it is time for the bells and whistles . . . I'm having a blast - but I know several important people in my life are feeling a bit neglected.  Still searching for balance . . . For Art's Sake, sher
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Update on Rapunzel's Progress

Here is an update of my progress on Rapunzel's Tower: This is an image of the gorgeous logo that Cheekwood Museum Art & Gardens has created for the exhibition - isn't it wonderful!??!!  Please visit their website at for more press releases related to the exhibition.  One of the great things about Cheekwood is that you hit every essence of visual art - botanical, visual, historical . . . it goes on and on - even the old stables have been re-used as installation and video exhibition spaces - and, even though it is an historical venue, they include gallery space for Contemporary Art as well.  Next year, along with a group of amazing women artists, I will be included in an exhibition "CARE: The Art & Science of Motherhood, a Bio-Ethical Debate" curated by Adam McCoy.  Please visit Cheekwood if you are anywhere NEAR Nashville, TN! Upper level of Rapunzel's Tower, minus the roof and lower tower level, minus the 3-D sculpture of Rapunzel, and minus the portrait panels of the King, Queen, and Enchantress.   A view of the roof panels (uncut) with the custom-dyed glazes for the panels. I also purchased all of the flag/banner material and have been working on the designs for the flag . . . busy, busy, busy!  It really came in handy to have kept all of my class materials from teaching Renaissance Art at the elementary school - I've even used the stencils from our Heraldry lessons.  Everyone always wonders why artists need so much storage space . . . my reply is - "to you it is junk, but to me it is an artist's treasure trove." Just a few weeks to go! For  Art's Sake, sher
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Beauty: By-Product of the Grotesque

A Review of Alicia Beach's TRAPPED Exhibition In much the way birth is the by-product of gore, so is beauty the by-product of the grotesque. On view at 1010 Gallery in Knoxville last weekend was University of Tennessee/Knoxville Graduate Sculpture Student Alicia Beach's TRAPPED exhibition.  The entire gallery consisted of several components of related installations: a structure built to resemble a decrepit smokehouse filled with organic remains, a live-feed projection of activity within said structure, and several sculptures suspended within the show windows. Beneath the aroma of decay was a loamy, earthy scent of fecundity.  From decay life is reborn and I was reminded of the scent of compost.  The byproduct of the projected, real-time art interaction on the projection was dreamy, mysterious and unknowable.  Taken from above, within the structure, the images provided a bird's eye view of the suspended matter and the heads, gesturing hands and moving feet of the viewers. The structure was worn metal and wood haphazard in its structure and neglected in its maintenance; an earth-like dark substance smooshed beneath your tread as you reluctantly ventured into the structure.  Within the structure you came face-to-face and body part-to-mysterious body part of decaying flesh, "bone" and entrails (a subsequent conversation with the artist revealed that all the objects were created from hair, 150-feet of animal intestines [sausage casings], and other organic materials).  Sporadically lit from all angles, above and below, the sometimes-translucent skin-like materials glowed from within while others absorbed the light in their eerie matte-ness and density. The fragility of the remains juxtaposed the hardness of desiccation and petrification . . . records of time passed to the susceptible shells of life. The confrontation of the senses was reactionary . . . the revulsion of many viewers (down to the nose-holders and "ewwww!'s") might have taken over some artistic recognition, but that might be what separates some of the animals from the beasts?  I'm glad I saw both; my appreciation for the by-product is greatly enhanced by my experience of the process.  Just as the baby is separate from the birthing process . . . Alicia Beach has brought forth an exquisitely human product. Questions to ponder on art:  if the by-products (projections and photographic stills) are removed from the installation (and I might even say true performance art) which part is the "art?"  Is the by-product just a record of the event?  These viewers were activated by experiential senses (smell), which could not be re-created without the objects themselves (can you "record" smell???) - these issues continue to be queried on all levels of contemporary art.  Art knows no boundaries and the debate itself increases the value and appreciation. Do we need to see the birthing process, or don't we?  As an artist, I truly enjoyed the evidence of nature's process.  After reading the Artist's Statement, my assessment is that: a) the artist successfully recreated a childhood encounter (of coming upon a smokehouse filled with animal remains, dripping blood, and overwhelming desiccation - and then realized the animals were from the "family" of her woodland friends), and b) that the by-products of her recreation can stand up to the Is It Art???? Interrogation.  I cannot recreate the olfactory experience for you . . .  but please find some visual remnants of the experience. Below is a photo of artist, Alicia Beach (on right), with a friend outside the gallery.
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Installation of COPING SKILLS is completed!

Completed views of COPING SKILLS.  Height 42", Width 50", Depth 15".     It's all in the details - viewer will be reflected in the floor of the altar table: To read a full Artist's Statement regarding Coping Skills, click "Pages - Artist's Statement for CS" on the right-hand side of this blog. For Art's Sake, Sher
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Interview with Artist Libby Rowe

This show represents relatively new ideas in respect to the overall body of work entitled "Pink".  Most of these ideas have been conceived within the last 2 years and were conceived of to work together in this exhibition.  I am pleased with how these specific pieces communicate with each other.  I have been working on "Pink" since 1996.  I knew, eventually, there would be enough pieces to really make a conversation about being female.  With this exhibition I feel I have finally hit a critical mass in this work.
FICK:  DID YOU REALIZE ANY FURTHER CATHARSIS IN THE CREATION OF THE WORKS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT? Hmmm...there are always some pleasant surprises.  I normally have a pretty good idea of how a piece will look/function before I can even begin the physical making process.  I would say that with some of these pieces, I took a bit of a leap of artistic faith.  The web ["Web of Lies"], for instance, began as a pretty straight forward idea.  To begin, I sent an email out to women who have participated in my work in the past - friends, family...asking them to send me a lie they tell themselves.  I expected different levels of commitment to the internalization of that request.  Everyone is in a different place after all.  I was surprised at how deep some women went and that they were willing to share that with me.  The piece took on a deeper poignancy.    Ultimately, I am pleased with the final piece and am excited about it being filled with lies that eventually cover the web itself. 
"It Sucks" Diptych is another one that ended up holding more meaning than I first thought it could.  For me there was a lot there, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people.  Most of my work comes from my own experiences, so they are really personal on some level.  That often becomes second to the physicality of the piece as it ends up. I am coming to understand the opportunity [of participation] that is embedded in my work.  Not everyone takes advantage, but those who do make the work that much richer.
I started using myself in my photographic work as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa.  During Grad School I went all out and did a series of photographs that really put me out there.  I haven't done that so blatantly since then.  I seem like a pretty outgoing person, but getting back on the horse, so to speak, was a challenge.  One of the things that has always interested me in this work is facing my own taboos and demons.  I never ask a viewer to take part in a piece that I haven't done myself.  I believe this is why people are so willing to participate in my work.  Without total exposure, total honesty on my end, I can't expect it from them. 
How does it feel?  It is nerve-wrecking, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.  I guess younger generations should just take risks and be OK with failures when they happen.  I have been interested by many comments from people who are younger who seem to be getting the message, before seeing my work.  The feminism challenge ebbs and flows.  I would like to see them figure out how to stop the ebb, those decades where we move too far backwards.  I try not to be preachy about my feminist/humanist beliefs, with the work or in talks/interviews.  I have my beliefs, one of which is that you can draw more flies with honey than with angry feminist diatribes...wait, is that how that one goes?  My main goal is to get people to think about what they believe, where their beliefs come from, [and] possibly change along the way.
Libby Rowe is a Professor of Photography at Vanderbilt University.  Her exhibition "PINK" is on view at the Leu Gallery, Belmont University, through March 6.
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Pink - Art Review of Libby Rowe's Recent Exhibition

Opening on Jan. 30, 2008 - Libby Rowe's PINK exhibition was a great success.  Filled with participating viewers, PINK was more performance art than observatory.  For artist's statement and additional images, see . It was exciting to see an exhibition so thoroughly evaluate what it means to be a woman and how society has effected the outcome of girls and the subsequent lives of future women, and thereby their future generations.  The recent exhibition  WACK!  covers female artists from 1965-1980.  Should anyone ever curate an exhibition of female artists, of which I am waiting with baited, anticipatory breathe, from our contemporary times, Libby Rowe deserves a spot! Visually ROWE covered every aspect for the impact of PINK - from the strings on the labels for WEB OF LIES to the authentic glass shelving which displays the embellishments for LEARNING FEMININE - SISTERS, to the hue of ink on the labels, every detail was deliberate and successful.      Overseeing the entire environment were two LIBBYs, one her everyday persona: wife, teacher, artist, daughter, and friend, which frequents the artistic venues of Nashville and Vanderbilt to a new, renovated LIBBY: "costumed" in a vintage pink and black polka dot dress which she fashioned herself, to her tidy heels and pantyhose - she was feminized literally from the crown of her head (beauty-shopped hair) and makeup, to her pedicured toes.  The transformation from the androgynous everyday LIBBY to the 50's ideal of womanhood LIBBY was historically recorded via video and photography which became part of the series. In the piece, IT SUCKS, Rowe is concentric with artist Catherine Obie,, as recently exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art*.  Please keep in mind, however, that ROWE's artwork stands on its own, separate from the box of feminist art.  One paints/writes/acts what one knows, in this way ROWE has provided a clear biological and biographical microscope into the mind of a specific era of humans - those raised by unknowing conformist baby boomers.  Such parents still cling to the ideals of "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" families - thus setting themselves and their children up for crisis's of identity.  This identity issue can be manifested in many ways - ROWE provides us with an analytic, female version of an artistic soul.  The main question in PINK is: what, TODAY, defines feminine???  In our societal quest for tolerance, this question and answer is no longer gender based.  Just as an artist wishes to be judged on the merits of their work/lives/worldviews - so, too, do individuals -  regardless of their race, gender, social status, or religion.  We are lucky that ROWE provides in her artist's statement an open and clear view of her individual experiences and philosophies.  These insights provide the viewer with direct lines of understanding.  PINK is a documentary of her quest to understand her own femininity and to redefine it for her future.  Many contemporary artists prefer ambiguity - with ROWE, what you see is what you get.  This is one of the most refreshing aspects of her work.  The deeper experience comes when you follow her pointing finger to the broader connections leading to societal, political, and, YES!, feminist agendas.  It is notable that during the participatory phase of CHIN UP (wherein the viewer becomes a willing participant in choosing a pair of pink, high heel shoes [provided in sizes 5 -13], and walks a PINK line across the gallery, turns, and returns to the starting point, all the while precariously balancing white dishware on their heads; in the event of failure, the viewer/participant/enactor is allowed to clean up after themselves by using a pink-handled broom, sweeping the remnants of their failure into a communal pile).  This was the strongest metaphor - that the failures (and successes) of all are irrevocably related to the whole - that singularity can be both celebrated and understood, literally supported and assimilated into the whole.  Many males participated - it was unnerving to view a male college student and a young boy practicing the roles that have been forced upon females for millenniums - willingly and with humor.    Blake Glopkin stated, regarding feminist art in his April 2007 "What is Feminist Art" article in the Washington Post, ". . . [i]t pushed instead for work that talked about crucial issues in the world outside. Ever since feminism, in all areas of art making, the message has mattered as much as the medium." I couldn't state more clearly that feminist art is not a contained, unattached "ism" within art - all humans are products of some female, thereby relating feminist art 100% to the entire human race.      (My personal favorite - the Participatory Web of Lies) *Brooklyn Museum of Art contains one of the only databases of feminist art, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, (note: any mistakes on titles or intent are solely the fault of me, the writer!  This review is my interpretation of PINK - there were so many more thoughts on individuals pieces, this is just the tip of the iceberg - I hope you enjoy exploring Rowe's artwork through my eyes).
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Art Inspired by Holly Hobbie

written Tuesday night, Feb 19th Here is the proof that buying vintage Holly Hobbie Fabric pays off: Detail of COPING SKILLS (see Pages for Artist's Statement). I am realizing more and more that my work is actually stronger the more autobiographical it is.  When I first began collecting fabrics I thought it was purely aesthetic, that I was drawn to the designs/colors/nostalgia.  As with anything, the more you do and the more you practice, it gets better.  I really feel like my work is beginning to come into focus - almost as if I am manually using a lens to clarify my views and expressions. Today was a hard day artistically - spent most of the day doing things that you don't really think of as "making art" - detailing the model of RAPUNZEL and tweaking the altar table for COPING SKILLS - just like motherhood I am multi-tasking. Here are the jobs I did today: 1.  Daughter/sister while my mom was enduring another post-operative visit following her heart surgery (coordinating with siblings from hundreds of miles away) 2.  Model maker/Woodworker/Carpenter (here I am using my favorite tool - a Rotozip, a gift from my stepdad, Lloyd). 3.  Painter 4.  Sculptor 5.  Set Designer 6.  Furniture Mover 7.   Photographer and photographer's assistant 8.   Graphic artist (editing digital photos) 9.   Historian 10. Chauffeur 11.  Cook 12.  Maid goes on and on......... The sense of accomplishment is making it, mostly, worth while.  But my back does ache! For Art's Sake, sher
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So, hooray, Tuesday I finished the Rapunzel model.  One of the great benefits is that I finished EARLY.  I have learned that with children, you MUST bump up your deadlines because you never know what might come up.  This buffer is necessary for your sanity, your career, and your family. Note, this process did not work for me last week when the two Chicago organizers didn't send me my exhibition paperwork until 2 days before the deadlines.  So, I am very appreciative of organizers that are considerate in their time lines! Rapunzel's model will be reviewed by the museum curator on Friday - which means I actually have time to make any changes or tweak any ideas I might have.  So, there you have even another reason to FINISH YOUR WORK EARLY!  Yes, I was the geeky student that finished my term-papers early and then took the advantage of extra time to really finesse them - students hated me, and MOST professors loved me.  NOTE:  I have had major problems with some professors, usually because I felt they had a personality conflict with me - which is very uncomfortable when they hold your 4.0 GPA in their hands.  True abuse of power. Anyway - Rapunzel's Tower will be installed at Cheekwood Gardens & Art Museum for their 2008 Happily Ever After Summer Installations from May - September 2008.  These are specifically installed outside, tucked in the acres of beautiful gardens and are intended for children and their interactive imaginations. The main feature of my design is that children will be able to rappel up the wall using Rapunzel's braid (made of nylon roping).  The rock-climbing wall will have two levels of difficulty - flat and one that is inclined for the younger kids.  Near Rapunzel's window will be a bell that they can ring when they reach the top.  This installation is based on tower designs I saw during our June 2007 trip to Italy - it is literally a pastiche of styles and I have attempted to visualize the vibrant colors of the mosaics and varying marbles used in Italy. Even though I had thought about this design for more than a year - when it came down to making the model I went through 3 different versions!  I thought I was so set, but the practicality, materials, and aesthetics are something you have to see and feel.  On the back view, left, is the actually cone hat for the full-sized Rapunzel - it will glitter in the sun - it is made of mylar, wire, and cut plexi. I am lucky to have enlisted the help of two former studio-mates for some of the detail work - they will be painting the panels for the King/Queen/Enchantress which will be located on the three other sides of the window level.  This idea reiterates the Italian architecture - especially as seen in Rome, where the vibrant mosaic portraits were placed just under the roof lines. Selena Long will be painting the 36" x 36" (Gothic window-shaped) panels for the King and Queen (Rapunzel's birth parents) and Denise Johnson will be painting the same size panel for the Enchantress. I am excited to be able to hire these artists and actually pay them for some art work!  I could do these panels myself and keep more profit from the contracted amount - but it is important to me to assist other emerging artists (financially and public exposure) whenever I can. This view shows Selena Long's "sketch" for the King panel and also shows the silly mirror that will be attached on the lower right hand side, as well as some of the stepping stones that will be installed in the grass over a wide area around the tower.  Children will be able to have a scavenger hunt for the letters spelling out Rapunzel's name and other symbols from the story.  Cheekwood is fabulous at providing activity books for the kids based on the designs which prompts their curiosity and learning.  The opposite side will have a similar silly mirror and the back lower panel will have texture plates for the exploration of the youngest children (fake grass, sponges, leather, etc.) Hope you enjoy the creative process shown and if I make any further changes BEFORE Friday, I will keep you posted! For Art's Sake, sher fick (Below - Sketches for the Enchantress (by Denise Johnson) and the Queen by Selena Long - the queen is shown with the rampion/lettuce which she coveted - it is the reason she lost her daughter to the Enchantress).
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