Thursday, October 29, 2015

Somerville's Jane Sherrill: An Artist Who Is All About Water

By Doug Holder

Somerville artist Jane Sherrill thrives around water. Most recently her sculpture and art has revolved around oceans, icicles and the shadows they produce. Sherrill has been producing art for many years now and she is a longtime resident of the Vernon St. Studios in Somerville. I talked with her amidst the din of the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square.

Doug Holder: You have worked in many different forms: painting, sculpture, etc...You are self-taught. Are there any disadvantages to that?

Jane Sherrill: Yes. You don't have teachers to help you get grants and better shows. But it also pushes you to be more creative. It has been up to me to teach myself how to draw. So I found my own way of doing things.

DH: You had another life before painting.

JS: I had a few lives before painting. I taught emotionally disturbed and learning disabled children. I was a psychiatric social worker, and a graphic designer. I also did some performance art based on temp jobs I held.

DH: Recently I heard that you completed a series of pictures of the pre-Sandy New Jersey shore.

JS: Yes. I took some pictures in Point Pleasant. I completed some very large paintings using these photos. There are 5 in the series. Right before I finished them Hurricane Sandy plowed through.

DH: Why did you choose New Jersey beaches?

JS: Here is the thing. I started a series of paintings about the ocean. I did this because I love the ocean. I worked on the large sense of the ocean and the tiny details, like droplets. I was aware that beaches are very different. I mean the color of the water varies from Cape Cod to New Jersey. I visited different beaches. I wanted to document that in the face of climate change. But what really inspires me is my awe of all of this. Oceans are stunning. And from this I have gone into cloud and sky. And people are telling me after they look at my paintings they are looking up at the sky all the time. I want people to look at this gorgeousness.

DH: How long have you been at the Vernon St. Studios?

JS. Over thirty years. There are people who have been there longer. It is a wonderful place. The only problem is that everybody is so busy that we don't get together as much as we did years ago.

DH: Can you tell me about your icicle project?

JS: This past year I was accepted into the Vermont Studios. I went up to Johnson, VT. It was bitter cold. One morning it was 27 below. The studio was beautiful. I walked in and I noticed that windows were covered with icicles. I came up with no set idea of what I wanted to work on. Then I began to draw the icicles. I also started to trace the shadows they made. I also decided to paint the icicles. I also made sculptures from hot glue.

DH: You were in the poetry scene in New York City some years ago.

JS: Years ago. I read at St. Mark's Church—and in a theatre in Hell's Kitchen—among other venues. My poetry was very performance based. I was touted as the new Patti Smith. (Laugh) It was the late 70s. I still love to write. It is wonderful to work with words. Now that I am on Facebook I write poetic vignettes.

DH: Do you make your daily nut from your art?

JS: I do a number of things to get by. I sell may paintings; I do graphic design and in the past I have taught everything from the Torah in Hebrew School and substitute taught. It ain't easy.

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