When Women Inspire, Interview by Christy Birmingham-Reyes, 2023

Originally Published June 13, 2023 in When Women Inspire

Artist Sherry Karver creates new hybrid of mixed media artwork, and it’s stunning

Artist Sherry Karver

The mixed media pieces from artist Sherry Karver are unlike anything I have seen. I am so excited to share this interview with you all! I love the Chicago-based artist’s modern spin and am fascinated by how crowds inspire her. I am an anxious person who avoids crowds, but now I see the value in them as they give Sherry spectacular imagery to create artistic masterpieces. Find out more about her here, see some of her artwork, and much more!

Disclosure: This sponsored interview features a woman artist who I admire for paving her own path with one-of-a-kind, eye-catching creations that mix modern materials.

Interview with Sherry Karver

How I adore the conversation below with Sherry Karver and the images of her artwork, including the pixelated photo that is representative of the “glitchy” times we’re in. And the studio reno, wow, what a space she has to work in, as you will see. “The World is Movement” art is divine too.

Let’s get to the artist interview!

Have you always wanted to be an artist, Sherry Karver? Did you go to school for art?

I grew up as an only child in Chicago and did art from a very early age. My parents were Holocaust survivors, so art was not a priority in my family. Inadvertently, my parents were instrumental in my early interest in making art. My dad was a tailor, so there were always scraps of fabric to cut up and make things with, and my mother worked for a company that made little colored squares of paper called chips for paint company brochures. She would bring extra ones home for me, and I was probably the only 5-year-old who knew what color aubergine was!

I did attend the Art Institute of Chicago children’s classes on Saturday mornings. But by the time I got to college, my parents wanted me to major in something I could get a job in, so my B.A. degree is in sociology from Indiana University in Bloomington, In.

As I mentioned earlier, I discovered ceramics my senior year and opened a pottery shop in Chicago after graduating. I never did anything with my sociology degree. After four years of having the shop, which was a wonderful experience, I went back to get my M.F.A. at the Newcomb School of Art at Tulane University in New Orleans. I knew I wanted to teach college-level ceramics, which I did for the next 30 years.

You returned to your love of art, and I’m so glad you did! Can we see your art studio?

“About 22 years ago my husband Jerry and I bought the Rockridge Women’s Club and converted it to a live/work space. The main meeting room of the club is my art studio and we live upstairs.” – Artist Sherry Karver

Sherry Karver’s art studio. Photos courtesy of Sherry.

It’s fantastic! I’m curious, why did you transition from ceramic sculpture to working with other materials?

I fell in love with clay from the very first class I took as a senior in college, and I was hooked. Making something sculptural and/or functional out of “nothing” was really appealing to me. I never thought I would leave clay, but funny how chance happenings take one in a different direction.

In my wall sculptures, I was epoxying broken pieces of fired clay to wood panels, putting them together much like a jigsaw puzzle. One day while doing this, I was interrupted – I think the pizza arrived – and when I got back to work, some of the ceramic pieces had shifted a little, and I couldn’t fit the rest in.

The panel was only half done, but I saw the beautiful wood grain texture on the board, which gave me the idea to paint the remaining part. After that, I started to purposely leave out more and more of the clay pieces and painted on the board until no clay remained at all.

So, the shift away from ceramics happened very gradually over a period of time. Around then, early 2000’s I got my first computer and Photoshop and started doing more photography, incorporating my images onto the wood panels.

“The next photo is from my Identity and Perception series, called ‘The World is Movement.’ This photo-based painting is a composite of numerous photographs of people who were at Grand Central Station in NYC. I put them together to create a new composition, and choose two or three figures that I write little biographical text on, that is totally fictional based on how I view them.

“This series is about issues that are rampant in our fast paced metropolitan areas: alienation, loneliness, loss of identity, memory, and how we view others, etc. All of the color is hand-painted with oil glazes, and has a resin surface on a wood panel.” – Artist Sherry Karver

What forms of art do you primarily focus on?

Now all my work begins with photographs I take in public places, my favorite being the crowds at Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. I also photograph on city streets in NY, London, Paris, [and] wherever I happen to be.

The photo is just the beginning of my process, not the end result. I work on three different yet related series concurrently. I combine my photo images with oil paint for all the colors, some narrative text, and, most recently, jigsaw puzzles made from my own photos. I am pushing the parameters of photography and painting to create a new hybrid of mixed-media work.

So cool! What do you take from your 30 years teaching college-level ceramics to apply to your artwork today?

Having given demonstrations to students for so many years, I have become confident to be in front of various groups. I am comfortable with doing lectures on Zoom or in person.

Being in the classroom has been a good training ground for me. Teaching others has been a great joy, and seeing my students (some older citizens) not only learn a new skill like throwing on the potter’s wheel but excelling in it and going on to become professional artists.

Helping my students solve technical issues has helped me learn to solve my own problems with painting, photography, resin pouring, etc.

Wonderful. Is there an overarching message, theme, or style that weaves through your pieces?

The predominant theme in my work is about people, how we relate to each other, and how we are individuals yet part of a crowd. Regardless of which series I am working on, the figure is always present. Maybe my sociology background is really coming to fruition!

I was immediately drawn to your Missing Pieces of the Puzzle collection. What inspired it?

When Covid began, my husband Jerry and I stopped going out much and started doing jigsaw puzzles at home. Jerry has since done over 100, and once when I was walking past one that he had half finished, I thought it looked more interesting than when completed.

That gave me the idea of having my own images made into jigsaw puzzles and leaving some pieces out when putting them together. I realized that often in life, and especially during Covid, people were missing things such as seeing family and friends, traveling, going to school or work, finding relationships, etc.

This series represents the missing pieces in our lives and in the world, but sometimes these missing pieces open the space for something new to enter the picture.

That is a beautiful message. Truly. What would you say if someone asked you how to start as an artist?

I don’t think one gets “started” as an artist consciously because it is usually something a person has an interest in since childhood – doodling, putting things together, etc. It’s sort of a natural happening in most cases, a passion that develops over time.

How to start being a “professional” artist is another story. I would recommend taking art classes at a college, or an art center to learn the basics, then going on to get an M.F.A. as that gives a person some structure, more technical instruction, and a support system.

After that, it’s work, work, work; work on developing one’s own style, entering shows, etc. It’s a hard business, not glamorous or very profitable, and most of all, you have to have a very, very, tough skin because there is lots of rejection.

“The next one is from my Movement Interrupted series, called “Modern Times.” This is an actual unaltered photograph, not created using Photoshop or any algorithm. I photograph my TV screen when the image breaks up and pixelates due to uneven reception. I am using these glitches for aesthetic purposes, and allowing chance and serendipity to create what I photograph. This series is in response to the difficult period we are in right now where things seem to be disintegrating, yet I look for the beauty within the chaos around us.

“The images from this series are Dye Sublimation prints on metal in editions of 12 in varying sizes. The industrial feel of the metal works well with contemporary digital technology and the glitches that occur.” – Sherry Karver

Modern Times by Sherry Karver
Modern Times by artist Sherry Karver. A stunning part of the Movement Interrupted series. Image used with Sherry’s permission.

What do you want us to know about your artwork or you as an artist, Sherry Karver?

I want people to know that I am a very serious, dedicated artist who is not afraid to take chances and try new and different things. I am not a “traditional” photographer, and I have always been on my own trajectory.

I think growth in one’s work is very important, and not to get stagnated by doing one type of work over and over again. I don’t jump from one thing to another quickly, but I do allow my work to evolve and change at its own pace.

When I look back at my past work, I am glad that I’m not doing the same things I did 20 or 30 years ago! I want to create something that hasn’t been done before.

You are a trailblazer! Do you have a favorite piece or collection from your career?

I don’t really have one favorite piece or collection because they are all my “children.” Whatever I just finished is the special one, at least until the next one I do. I don’t get very attached to the work because I would rather have it find a good home with a collector.

The funny part is that as soon as I finish a work, and it’s up on the wall, I barely even remember having made it. Sometimes I look around my studio, and it feels like I’m at someone else’s exhibition. I’m already onto the next piece.

If I have to choose a current “favorite” one, it is from my “Missing Pieces of the Puzzle” series, called “When Illusions are Gone.” It is 30″x40″x2″ and combines jigsaw puzzle pieces made from one of my own photos, which was a composite of people on a city street in Paris. Here it is:

Sherry Karver's When Illusions are Gone
When Illusions are Gone by Sherry Karver. This artwork is part of the Missing Pieces of the Puzzle series. Image used with Sherry’s permission.

I left out the background of the photo and painted it with a solid pale pink to make the figures stand out and to leave space for the imagination to fill in the rest. This series is special to me because the concept of putting together jigsaw puzzles has really come full circle from my earlier ceramic work, where I was doing something similar with broken clay pieces and painting in the negative spaces. I’m just using different materials now. It’s a nod to my past work, which I didn’t even realize at first.

Where can we see your art in person, or where it has been featured?

My work can be seen at the galleries that currently represent me: Anne Loucks Gallery, Glencoe, IL, Patricia Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, Stremmel Gallery, Reno, and A Gallery, Salt Lake City. My work was recently featured in the Woven Tale Press Magazine and Artist Talk Magazine. You can also see all my series on my website at http://www.sherrykarver.com

A few last words from artist Sherry Karver

I am a little concerned about AI and how it will impact the world in general and artists, especially photographers in the near future. We are at the beginning of a new technical era with no real oversight as to what could happen, so we shall see…

Connect with Sherry Karver online

Find out more about this talented artist and her latest artwork at her self-titled website, Sherry Karver. See her portfolio, which shows her amazing collections of mixed media art. I can’t wait to see what she creates next!

Connect with her on social media too. Sherry Karver is on Instagram. Hit the Follow button to stay up to date on her amazing creations!

Top photo: Meet Sherry Karver. Photo used with her permission.