Claire Sherman enlivens the sublime landscape

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Claire Sherman visited the Union community on Feb. 22, 2016, enlightening students on her provocative, chaotic and alluring landscape paintings.

According to Sherman, establishing herself as a “landscape painter” sometimes tends to undermine the meaning she wishes to depict in her art.

Sherman is so much more than that, and listeners received a firm explanation on her inspiration, her motives and the true meaning embedded within these paintings.

She started off by discussing the influence various artists and authors have had on her work.

Author Edmund Burke, who wrote “A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful,” is one of the many people that Sherman studied and admired.

She discussed how the sublime is the foundation of her work: it’s the aspect of being enticed or seduced by something, but also experiencing an element of extreme danger.

Additional inspirations ranged from John Mür, an early environmentalist who sketched wildlife and arranged text around the images, and Edward Abbey, an American author who was noted for his criticism of public land policies, advocacy of environmental issues and anarchist views.

Through studying various authors and artists, Sherman realized that she was fascinated with the idea that man is always depicted as the dominating force in nature.

Thus, she became increasingly interested in the wild side of nature, the side of nature that in fact cannot be tamed by man.

Sherman then began to discuss her own work. Once she entered school, she slowly transitioned from figures to landscape.

She then started to eliminate the horizon line and titled the view. She claimed that her work tends to be on bigger canvas, usually around 25 square feet.

The titles of her works are also pretty basic, ranging from “Cliff” to “Dirt and Grass” to “Weeds.” These titles give a peculiar dryness to her work, pushing the meaning into the viewers’ faces while extracting the romanticism from it.

Sherman collages light source and imagery, creating a theatrical embodiment of nature.

She then informed us of how she slowly transitioned from a chaotic composition to a much more organized structure of diagonals and verticals.

It can be inferred that her paintings are created right before or after an event occurred, thus provoking a sense of wonder.

Sherman also stated that she intended for her paintings to relate to one another, and additionally that she wants viewers to relate to her paintings.

She urged her viewers to feel as though they are the one filling up the emptiness of the picture, placing themselves inside of the landscape.

Her paintings are synthetic and natural at the same time; she ramps up color, which enhances an electric quality, while also pulling in the organic elements of nature.

Sherman’s last part of the discussion addressed the point where she lost her inspiration. In response, she started spending more time outdoors.

She went hiking and experienced the heat and the light, then chose to incorporate those experiences into her works.

These paintings still have the theme of nature, however, they house more obstruction and rhythm, while also utilizing differing perspectives.

She described the forms she uses as “anthropomorphic,” meaning they are more stark, have a combination of interlocking and of quirky forms, but still have the sense of messiness, of an absence of gravity.

These works, along with her others, portray the severity, mystery, uncertainty and, of course, the allurement of the outdoors.

Sherman does an incredible job of presenting this, while also allowing the viewer to get lost within the painting itself.

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