"I like to play openly with the fact that art is artifice; something contrived, invented or staged that somehow expresses a presence or attitude of the inventory. Still life has always been my chosen genre for this, although my practice of placing arrangements in front of scenes from old master paintings has evolved more recently."
Sherrie Wolf, a painter as well as a printmaker, is one of Portland's most prominent artists. She has exhibited widely both in the region and nationally and has received numerous awards and commissions.
Wolf was born in Portland Oregon and earned her BFA in painting from Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). "It was a very good program where you really had to learn to draw and how to use color," she says. "They had a lot of strength in the painting department with many of the most well known artists of the Northwest teaching us." She learned printmaking from Louis Bunce, whose vibrantly colored impressionistic landscapes and cityscapes evoke the work of Marsden Hartley.
Wolf obtained an MFA in printmaking from London's Chelsea College of Art. In the mid 70's, she returned to Portland and began exhibiting her work while teaching art at PNCA. She found success with large colorful etchings, drawings and paintings. She had her own press and printed in her own studio up until 1994. Now she prints with Mark Mahaffey at Mahaffey Fine Art in Portland.
While at Chelsea College, Wolf studied great master paintings in Europe's museums. This created a real, immediate appreciation of the old masters that was difficult to get from books, slide lectures and classroom instruction. About her experience she wrote, "Art history started to make sense to me in a way that it had not in art school. Seeing and doing art has always communicated more to me than names and dates in an art history class."
Ms. Wolf embraces classical painting while employing the post-modern aesthetic of appropriation. Importantly the background of Zebra with Cherry and Fava Bean is not imagined, but a copy of a painting. Zebra was painted in 1762-63 by the English artist George Stubbs who achieved a high degree of fame through his realistic portraits of horses and exotic animals. Wolf was intrigued by the surreal quality of the zebra in a bucolic setting and used the image for the background of the Print Club print. The grand scale of the still life, a plate, cherry, and fava bean, placed in the foreground, reinforces the illusion of a disquieting strangeness. The still life elements were chosen for their pleasing textures and colors and are neither symbolic nor play a narrative role.
To produce Zebra with Cherry and Fava Bean Wolf began with a reproduction of the Stubbs painting and placed real objects in front of it. She digitally photographed the composition which she then manipulated on a computer changing some colors. The new image was used to produce a photogravure plate which was printed in black ink. The artist made two aquatint plates from which the seven other colors were printed. Wolf likes aquatint because it provides the range and nuances of tone required for the polychromatic effects she desires.
Quoting Wolf's web site: "Art stretches us by being several things at once. It can be a ripe fruit ready to fall off the canvas onto the floor, but also, when viewed closely, a collection of brush strokes on a flat surface. The landscape that I place in the background is a flat surface but simultaneously a space in which the still life subjects reside. The objects are ordinary, but simultaneously monumental by virtue of their relationship to the majestic landscape in the background. Small scale animals and figures in the landscape are potent reminders of time, scale and our relationship to the natural environment. A vase of flowers before a dramatic deep space makes a comment by juxtaposing the mundane with the sublime, and also finds a potent emotional interaction that enhances some aspect of a past painter's message. These dualities give me a rich palate for exploration. I set up my arrangements for color and formal compositional elements as well as for emotional and conceptual content. Content often derives from interactions that are discovered by trial and experiment. I enjoy finding resonance that did not at first occur to me."
- Transmissions, The Laura Russo Gallery, Portland, OR
Faces, The Laura Russo Gallery, Portland, OR
New Paintings, Arden Gallery, Boston, MA
Gordon Woodside / John Braseth Gallery, Seattle, WA
Counterpoint, The Laura Russo Gallery, Portland, OR
Animal Life, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA
- Finalist, Contemporary Northwest Artists Awards 2011, Portland Art Museum, Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Northwest Artists Collection
- Juror's Choice Award, Blossom: The Art of Flowers, The Susan Kathleen Black Foundation, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, TX
- Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland, OR, Grant for Printmaking Project, The Artemisia Suite
- Art About Agriculture, Oregon State University
- Oregon Artist Fellowship Award, Oregon Arts Commission
- Artists Making Their Mark. Fine art Connoisseur Magazine, V. 8, No. 3 (May/June 2011), p. 53.
Adams, Anne, First Thursday Picks, Portland Monthly, June 30, 2010.
Bloom, Amy, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, Random House, New York, 2010 (cover illustration)
Skinner, Tina, 100 Artists of the West Coast II, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA, 2009, pp. 202-203
By Margaret Dobbins
ZEBRA WITH CHERRY AND FAVA BEAN, The Print Club of Cleveland Publication No. 91, 2013. Etching, aquatint, and photogravure on paper. Printed at Mahaffey Fine Art, Portland, Oregon, 2011.
"My still lives are very much contrived, like a stage."