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Identity and Perception
Sherry Karver

Pushing traditional boundaries of photography, oil painting and narrative text, I have combined them to create a unique hybrid that confronts today’s individual and societal issues so rampant in our fast-paced, impersonal metropolitan areas: alienation, loneliness, loss of identity, history, memory, self–image, and how others view us.

My mixed media, photo–based work originates from photographs I have taken on city streets in New York, Paris, Milan, and in iconic buildings such as Grand Central Terminal and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. These are one–of–a–kind works with the black and white photograph laminated onto wood panels, and all of the color is hand-painted with oils.

I began writing text over some of the figures in my photos as a way to personalize or individualize them, and make them stand out from the crowd. These brief narratives about the people are from my imagination, based solely on their appearance or stance. By using text in my work, it adds another layer, and gives the viewer a chance to experience the artwork, and become part of the process by reading it.

I superimpose these biographies on top of the individuals, almost as if they are wearing their stories like an article of clothing. I give a little bit of fictional history about the person; where they are from, their age, what they do, their hopes, their dreams and aspirations, and often something embarrassing or personal that they would rather not have revealed. The figures are often caught in movement, conveying our individual journeys, where we are all collectively alone.

I see a connection between photography and history, sometimes combining vintage B&W photos with my contemporary shots, and incorporating ghost–like apparitions. These figures represent the passage of time — all the people that have been in the exact same place but at a different moment. We are all connected in this time continuum, even if we aren’t aware of it. My work embraces the contemporary non–linear view of time with its randomness, spontaneity, and chance occurrences.

The concept of juxtaposing the past and the present, has led to my interest in photographing people among the ancient sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum, including giving anthropomorphic qualities to the sculptures themselves.

In my work the documentary nature of the B&W photograph merges with the painterly qualities of oil, establishing a dialogue between the two. I mount my black & white images on top of 2” deep wood panels, and hand paint them with numerous layers of oil glazes to build up the color. The final surface has a glossy UV resin coating so the viewer can see their own reflection, and become part of the photo–based work.

- Sherry Karver

I have been an artist ever since childhood. I was born and raised in Chicago, and attended kid's Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. I got sidetracked in college and received my BA in sociology at Indiana University, but I discovered ceramics my senior year, and knew that was my path.

I opened a pottery shop and studio for the next four years, then went back to get my MFA in ceramics at the Newcomb School of Art of Tulane University in New Orleans. I taught college level ceramics for over twenty years, but my own work evolved into photo–based painting with narrative text, which is my main focus today.

My work has been in over 25 solo exhibitions, and is included in over 175 private, corporate, and museum collections. Currently, I am represented by Martha Schneider Gallery in Chicago, Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Susan Lanoue Gallery in Boston, and Sue Greenwood Fine Art in Laguna Beach.

Now I have a live/work studio in Oakland, CA with my husband Jerry Ratch who is a poet, novelist, and Realtor.

Visit Sherry Karver’s site