Telling a story
Sherry Sims wants viewers to draw their own conclusions about her art
After a 32-year career in social work, La Crescenta, Calif., resident Sherry Sims decided to try her hand at art, something she’d been interested in all her life. She even majored in art in college but went into social work for more practical reasons.
“It was clear to me that you don’t make a livelihood doing art,” she said.
But after she retired, several lengthy trips to her ancestors’ home in Ireland piqued her artistic desires. She also took an art class.
“Everyone in the class was a pro,” she said. “They had all been painting for like 20 years and came out to take a class from this one instructor. I walk in, Miss Beginner, and I didn’t know what to do.”
The instructor told her to “paint big,” so she found a large tarp and went crazy. She only had eight tubes of paint, so she used everything she could get her hands on.
“I think I even used some stain,” she said, laughing.
The instructor liked her work, and for the last seven years, she’s been a full-time painter.
Her works, on display at the Metro Gallery inside Reno City Hall through March 16, don’t have an overarching theme, she said. However, all of her paintings at the Metro Gallery have several commonalities. All of the works in Undaunted have figures in them; they all mix bright, vibrant colors with darker, moodier tones; and all the figures, with an exception or two, are undefined, lacking detail.
Sims said she wants all of her paintings to tell a story. What exactly that story is remains up to the viewer.
“There are a lot of the works there that have tension,” Sims said. “There are figures that relate to each other in some way, but you’re not sure what they’re doing.”
Sims cites “3 Guys and a Story” as a prime example of her paintings’ mysterious natures. The undetailed figures stand seemingly motionless, with long garb that expands toward the feet—assuming that the figures have feet. The men each have a dark background color, with thick, colorful, squiggly lines on top. The color hints at something going on, but the viewer must decide what that “something” is.
Another mysterious painting, “Departure,” shows two figures. It’s unclear whether they are actually two different people, joined somehow at the bottom, or whether they’re just different aspects of the same person on display. The figure to the left is colored with white and pastels. On the right, the brightly colored figure seems to be trying to leave the painting. His or her head is bright blue, indicating what appears to be thought.
Sims said she painted “Departure” when a friend of hers was dying of a brain tumor.
"[Some people] are reading that painting as a loss,” Sims said.
One of the most distinctive works on display is “The Rebuff.” It stands out because it is the only work in the gallery in which the figures have facial detail. A person, who looks like a man wearing an article of clothing resembling a black toga, appears to be sadly slouching away from the other figure, a woman wearing a red dress. She glares at the man, one hand on a hip, clearly in power. A brown, uneven mass separates the two.
Sims said she is constantly changing the style of her works and may be entering a new phase of her artistic career. “The Rebuff,” one of Sims’ most recent works on display, shows she’s now heading toward a more realistic style.
“I am going that way. At least I think so," she said, again laughing. "You never know. That’s at least where I intend to go."