Artist Sherrie Posternak practices activism through art. She is currently using pieces that are very lightweight, light in color, and uplifting such as the one seen here to cancel the ambience of what she sees as an extremely heavy, dark, and pessimistic political and social US current situation. I spoke with Sherrie about creativity.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is tapping into your inner self and allowing the expression of your experiences, thoughts, questions, ideas, beliefs, and imagination to be realized through a variety of arts and humanities genres. I believe creativity is spurred, at least in regards to my own situation, by emptying the mind from worries, stresses, and negative emotions. Perhaps that is why a lot of my creative inspiration comes while I’m relaxed and about to fall asleep or when I’m waking in the morning.
How did your art evolve and how have you evolved as a result?
My art has evolved in stages. I had worked in metals, photography, mosaic and collage. I initially (11 or so years ago) practiced learning the “hows” and “whys” of encaustic painting, in reading and taking workshops. The resulting works sometimes resembled that of my teachers, but I also experimented all across the board of techniques and styles, curious to see which resonated most with my personality and my “voice.” Eventually I found my way and my works began to really ring true. You feel it in your gut. It is interesting that more and more I have incorporated other materials and techniques from my earlier art practice (like photography, collage, and mixed media materials). But I am not stuck in a ritualized rut; I continue to ask the questions like “what if?” And “what do I need to give or say now?” And my work grows and continues to evolve.
I have evolved by realizing that many times the expression of my feelings and thoughts is through my art language, sometimes even more than through my vocal conversation. I have also resolved questions about my belief system and have become happier through this practice. A good example is how a large series of pieces I made about the cycle of life and death, specifically exploring Mexicans’ belief system, in large part helped me deal with the impending death of my parents (my dad has since passed away).
The abstract piece above is entitled Geometry, and was part of a complete installation I did in 2010 called A Memorial for El Tomate. It concerned my response to what I deemed a potential destruction of both the ecosystem and local culture of a small fishermens’ village and tide pools in San Carlos, Sonora, following the developer’s intent of transforming the area by building condos, homes, a boat dock or small marina, a paved road, and possible other collateral commercial amenities. The piece above is an image transfer on encaustic of one of my photos of a close-up of the facade of one fisherman’s shack.
How do you feel when you’re in your creative space and what does that contribute to your end result?
I go into another consciousness when I’m working in the studio. The spark of an idea may be a color palette or a very amorphous idea. I gather my materials around me and always start to work without the complete plan. For me, I can’t even begin if I try to have the whole piece resolved in my head or on paper first. My process is a conversation between me and the work. After each stage of painting, I stop and look, and the work tells me what else it needs and if there are areas I need to remove. Encaustic is a perfect medium for this process. Eventually the piece tells me when it’s done and it’s like a feeling of love in the pit of my stomach. It also tells me what the title should be, after we bounce ideas back and forth. The feeling about the act of creation is probably the same whether you have given birth to a baby, written a book or piece of music, or finished a painting.
Do you see an impact of fellow artists on you and your work?
Yes I do, but it is necessary to keep your self-confidence and know you’re being true to yourself, regardless of others’ opinions, even those of other artists. In my case I do receive validation from other artists, including those who have much more experience than I. Some of that validation of myself and my art flows to other artists’ desire to learn from me when I teach workshops.
As an artist, are there doubts and struggles you face?
This goes back to the previous question. I am not able to sell much of my work, partly because there is niche audience for it, being abstract and in a medium most people are not familiar with. I have the choice whether to compromise my voice to reach a larger audience, or stay true to myself and find other ways to have a cash flow, like my design business Cereza Oilcloth Studio LLC (cerezastudio.com). I also am willing to teach and do have fun with that activity. That is the principal struggle. But I remain true to myself.
How has your art changed your perception of the world and how the world sees you?
A lot of my art is born of an exploration and understanding of other cultures and other belief systems. It helps me feel globally connected and empathetic. I’m not sure how the world sees me, but when I travel outside the country I am very aware that sometimes I’m seen to represent the U.S. as a whole. I am very conscientious about behaving in a culturally sensitive manner.
What impact do you want to have with your art and on whom?
My art is a gift. I hope that the viewer can feel the same wonderful feeling in the pit of his/her stomach that I experience. It is not necessary to interpret a piece in the same manner as my intention…. I believe that all that is necessary is the passion behind my motivation, that it will shine through. The viewers will make the meaning their own.
Sometimes I make a piece to start a conversation. This is especially true for my works with a socio-political theme. As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes feel more comfortable putting my ideas “out there” in a visual context rather than with the spoken word.
NOTE: I met Sherrie during Art Unraveled 2017 in Phoenix, AZ. We both taught classes and participated in vendor day at the event.