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Sherry Markovitz: Shimmer, Paintings and Sculptures 1979 - 2007

May 22 - September 7, 2008


As a mid-career retrospective of renowned Seattle-based, mixed-media artist, Sherry Markovitz, this exhibition is comprised of 41 pieces: 29 sculptural works (10 dolls, 5 gourds, 14 animals) and 12 paintings.

Known for her evocative beaded assemblages, drawings, and paintings, Markovitz intricately weaves through various themes and materials in her multi-dimensional work. The artist is perhaps best known for her beaded, richly-adorned papier-mâché animal head trophies and dolls, which explore the realms of human expression, art and craft, life and death, and metaphors of gender and identity. Her prominent use of beads as a form of expression crosses cultural boundaries, touching on their historical and symbolic use -- functional, ceremonial, and spiritual -- around the world.

Born in 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, Seattle based artist, Sherry Markovitz has spent years collecting beads, buttons, feathers, little plastic Scotties, kewpie dolls, fake pearls, charms, etc. with a "wish to turn dross into art." She makes her figures out of papier-mache and reinforces with fiberglass and then covers with the above described objects. Sherry Markovitz received her BA in Ceramics and Art Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1969, WI, and received her MFA in Printmaking from the University of Washington in 1975.

Markovitz's works are featured in numerous public and private collections, including: The Corning Museum of Glass, NY; American Craft Museum, NY; Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI; Seattle City Light 1% for Art Collection; Junior League, Seattle; Seattle Art Museum; and Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA; among others.

Sherry Markovitz: Shimmer has been organized and distributed by the Museum of Art/Washington State University, Pullman, WA.


Related event

Meet the Artist! - Friday, July 11 · 6:30 - 7:30 pm · FREE
Free First Friday Lecture Series: Sherry Markovitz - Adornment, Beads and Mixed Media Sculpture


Artist's statement

In 1981, I began the series of ornamented animal trophy heads of deer, elk and moose and wild cats...they are beautiful images of rebirth, the death somewhat masked by their beauty. They are also a feminization of the traditionally male role as hunter, which has for centuries carried an unspoken taboo for women.


The most important aspect of my work is that it is circular, not linear. I weave in and out of themes and materials, sometimes developing an idea with new materials and ideas, sometimes returning to the simplicity of paint and paper. I move back and forth between two and three dimensions. The same symbols change their meaning over time, a symbol of loss in one body of work becoming one of well being in another.
My earliest paintings are of domestic and confined animals. Landscapes of sheep, donkey and elephants speak of comfort and security, which correspond to the death of my father. They are large, ambitious paintings, some with beads and sequins. I then moved into the wilderness arena with images of bears or deer animals that are often viewed as prey. The paintings moved into sculpture, as they could no longer be contained in two dimensions.
When my mother died in 1985, I returned home and began a series of doll paintings. With leftover pieces of metal (from the building of my house) I did a series in oil paintings on metal. They spoke about loss and fragmentation. That period lasted about a year, the time it takes to heal from a loss (according to the Talmud). The last of these works still contained emptiness, but also fertility in their reference to flowers and spring.
The birth of my son in 1988 was a quiet and happy period. I began to do simplified shapes using beads, but as monochromatic skins. Gourds were cut up, reassembled, and beaded simply, accentuating their sensuous curves and contours. The pieces were hung at unusual angles to the wall, so that striving for the balance point became the key to their success. I see these gourd works as having a spirit of gathering rather than hunting. I am still working on these ideas and or forms in the sense that I know I will come back to them.
The previously two-dimensional dolls became sculptural in 1998. These primarily positive memories of childhood were highly decorated with a vast array of materials including flowers, shells, feathers and old pieces of costume jewelry covering every surface. I was still making beaded trophy heads as well as new abstract bulbous pieces which took their shapes from oddly tied and sectioned balloons that I covered in papier-mach? and then beaded entirely. I decided that it was an external expectation that one should leave one idea and move onto the next, but that, still, I needed my multiple languages of materials and ideas. It was a way of expressing obsessive compulsion against quiet simplicity.
Currently, I am back to painting on paper. Images of female doll heads and bodies, stuffed animals, dresses, and iconic images such as Howdy Doody, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snurd and Emmett Kelly. They refer to my earlier doll paintings, as well as trophy heads - being just heads. Executed in water-based media mixed with egg, the material allows for a sculptural dimension by a disregard for the sacredness of the paper by allowing for wrinkles, yet maintaining a tactile pleasure by building up a surface with thin layers of glazing. These paintings came out of a sense of urgency, as a dream poking through the unconscious to deliver a message.
The aspect of collective memory refers to something people of my generation all remember. For people of future generations these iconic images become collectibles. "Collectibles" does, in fact, refer to our collective memories. It is important that these works not be nostalgic or sentimental, but offer a departure point for all of us to remember as we face the future.
- Sherry Markovitz, 2001

(above: Sherry Markovitz, Breasted Buddha, 2002-2003, Beads, papier-mâché, mixed media, 15 x 13 x 9 inches. Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky. Photo: Markovitz/Millett)


(above: Sherry Markovitz, Herself, 2005-2006, Beads, papier-mâché, mixed media, 20.5 x 23.5 x 6.5 inches. Collection of the Artist. Photo: Markovitz/Millett)


(above: Sherry Markovitz, Pocahantas, 2005-2006, Foil, gouache, shells on paper, 30 x 30 inches. Collection of the Artist. Photo: C.B. Bell)

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