Sherry Lee Short: Entwined | On view in the Main Gallery 12 January – 25 February 2024 | Guest Curated by Tobias Zikmund
Sherry Lee Short received her Master of Fine Arts in Painting with Distinction from the University of Georgia in 1988. Following, she taught part-time in the School of Art at Minnesota State University Moorhead while also serving as the Director of the Women’s Network of the Red River Valley. During the late 1990s, she stepped out of the arts and committed her focus to working as Director of the Minnkota AIDS Project, an agency that served persons affected by HIV and AIDS in 47 counties in Minnesota and North Dakota. In 2001, she returned to MSUM as a full-time faculty member in the School of Art.
At MSUM, Short has taught drawing and illustration, feminist studies courses, and topical courses on art and social justice. She served as Director of Women’s and Gender Studies from 2012-2014 and as Chair of the School of Art from 2020-22. She also founded the Scientific Illustration program. She is currently in her final year of teaching.
Short has received numerous notable awards. In 2017, she was selected as an Alice Paul Award Honoree. The award was conferred by the Committee on Feminist Movement History of the National Organization of Men against Sexism and placed Short on historical list of women in the US who have worked to confront men’s violence against women. She received the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Board of Trustees Outstanding Educator Award (2020) and the MSUM Dille Outstanding Lecturer Award (2021). She has held national and international wilderness artist residencies, including Isle Royale National Park (2018) and The Wild Residency, Ontario, Canada (2019). Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
The works in this exhibition span half of my professional art career and overlap three bodies of work. My work has evolved from a primary interest in figure drawing and painting to landscape explorations to my most-current work, collages. Each of these bodies of work reflect my persistent focus on details, an interest in the expressive qualities of value, and narrative.
Two figurative works, self-portraits, were selected for this exhibition. Self-portraits by women artists negotiate the expected territories of masculine agency and feminine passivity—historically, male artists have been the presumed makers of high art; women, the subjects. In my own work, I aimed to transgress: to mix personal ownership of the aesthetic of masculinist art history that has been imposed upon me with a subversion of the same.
The majority of the landscape works have been inspired from solo backpacking trips, artist residencies in wilderness areas, and an amateur passion for the natural sciences. The works reflect the pensive, introspective nature of spending time on remote and less-traveled paths. I am interested in the stories that are told in the smaller, more intimate aspects of the landscape rather than the iconic macrocosms.
I began working in collage in 2020. Unlike my other bodies of work, which involve detailed and highly intentional representations of the human form or the landscape, the collages are driven by improvisation and discovery. Each collage evolves through cutting, combining, discarding, and adding until the work resolves. The collages tap not only into my interest in storytelling but also my affection for books and puzzle solving.
--Sherry Lee Short, 2024
Guest Curator's Statement
Sherry Lee Short seems to forgo the conventionally picturesque. She eschews scenic vistas to focus on the twisted and the broken, the shattered and the discarded. The dramatic, intricate rendering imbues these objects with a sense of undeniable presence.
Common elements of brokenness, darkness, and encompassing abyss yield a sense of ever-present peril. Short's work captures the many forces that come to bear on landscape. Stick piles and lifeless trees reveal human manipulation of landscape; cliff faces and boulders bear witness to the solid presence and enduring power of a land under stress. The depiction of singular objects and focused vignettes yields an immediate, personal understanding of her subjects. The exhibition’s title, Entwined, highlights the relationship between growth and change, the shared future of land and people, and the artist’s longstanding affinity to landscape.
Short's body of landscape work is substantial and deeply explored. These selected works, drawn from her latest explorations, feature select isolated components, which contrasts to her earlier focus on complete views of the landscape. She renders her forms mostly in graphite, but also in pastel, watercolor, and other dry media, highlighting her ability across materials. Short often draws from direct observation, during both weekslong artist residencies in remote wilderness sites and shorter personal excursions, supplemented by pieces created later in the studio. Short's landscape drawings are joined by self-portraits and collages — her latest endeavor — highlighting the many forms of her continually evolving activity.
--Tobias Zikmund, 2024