Deidre Scherer in her studio with a work in progress
Detail of work in progress (photos by Tim O’Reilly)
Artist Deidre Scherer has a group of works entitled “Surrounded by Family and Friends,” at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in Manhattan until February 26th. From the HUC-JIR website:
Educated as a painter at the Rhode Island School of Design during the mid sixties, Deidre Scherer worked in oils, charcoal, and pencil before turning to fabric and thread. She developed a distinctive narrative approach in the medium of fabric and thread, using scissors and sewing machine as drawing tools and capturing the contours with multiple lines of colored threads, both blending and highlighting, to create a startling realism. While creating a portrait series of elders in her community, Scherer addressed issues on aging and mortality, and she pioneered the figurative potential of her medium.
I was lucky enough to visit Deidre at her studio last year to see some of her works in progress and hear a bit about her process. Trained as a painter, she has been working with fabric and thread for well over twenty years, and has created a medium of her own. Looking at a portrait from a distance, it is hard to imagine that such a delicate balance of light and shadow, color and shape, was created from such ordinary textiles (she frequently uses quilting fabrics). It’s somehow incredibly moving to see such powerful images (her works often portray the very elderly and the dying) forged from fabric I associate with comfort. While she also creates still lives and portraits of friends (seen above), she is drawn to creating images of those who are most vulnerable in the hopes of sparking more compassion for them from her viewers. The art world was slow to understand her work, but she is finally starting to gain recognition. If you live in NYC, I highly recommend a visit to see the show before it closes, both for the medium and the message.
Update: The show has been extended one day, and will close on February 27th, to
coincide with the opening of Judy Chicago’s show from 5:30 to 8 PM that night.