Kathleen Sherin is a longtime (and one of the most prolific) resident artist at Buffalo Arts Studio who very actively exhibits her work across and beyond New York State. Through her periodic solo exhibitions and inclusion in numerous group exhibitions, WNYers have had the opportunity to see her work for over 30 years. It has been my good fortune to have followed and appreciated her work for almost that long.
In fact, I first wrote about her work in 1994 when she had a solo exhibition at the Adams Art Gallery in Dunkirk, NY. I found the work to be engaging then and my admiration for it has not waned since. What has sustained my attention is watching her personal language of mark-making develop and skillfully evolve over time. The intermingling of disparate forms and textures she creates and spirit of experimentation that her work exudes has kept it fresh and inventive, series after series. Her forays into representation, such as her “Knot Series” in 2001, continue to inform her current mastery of abstract compositions.
Sherin considers herself a printmaker, and in fact the works on view are created using a range of printmaking techniques. However, since the works are all monoprints (one-of-a-kind, unique prints) they actually have a great deal in common with drawings or paintings. For example, Sherin refers to an affinity for “emphasizing my physical presence by leaving traces of my hand manipulation in each final print.” Additionally, since some are composed of different prints that have been cut apart and assembled, she also employs strategies used in collage.
All of the work in the exhibition was created in the last two years, during a time of social isolation and (as a result) increased time in the studio. Even within that brief period, there are several separate but related bodies of work within the exhibition. It is the confident handling of the imagery and limited color palette that ties these works together and each individual “series” within this exhibition commands its own attention.
Over the years, Sherin has used as a leitmotif in her work an abstract shape that appears as a tangled line. It resembles a cord that is in the process of unraveling or being tied. She had used light and dark variations of that gesture to express emotion and advance an implied narrative in the work. In one series (each work is aptly titled after a hurricane) the line is highly charged and suggests chaos and destruction. In other works, that web-like line serves to move the viewers’ eyes across the composition. It is interesting to note that Sherin, previously part of the nursing profession, describes this linear element as a “mental EKG” or “thought line” – “something that has congealed and then moved on.”
It is Sherin’s mastery of her media and decades long experimentations with the subtle effects she can achieve that makes the work so successful.
Another element that occasionally appears in her work is a single blue square, and that solidly rooted shape serves as a potent counterpoint to the fluid, more volatile line structures. While the prints may appear simple, in composition and other aspects, they are in fact very complex. It is Sherin’s mastery of her media and decades long experimentations with the subtle effects she can achieve that makes the work so successful. This includes the fine tuning of the shades of color in her spare color palette and the choices she makes whether to either allow the textured background to fade away or be an active participant in the visual symphony she is conducting. It is particularly rewarding to observe the deft “macro-micro” relationship that exists between the background texture and the highly structured imagery that forms the focus of each work.
The title of the exhibition – Stable Structures and Disruptive Forces – is one that was well thought out by Sherin to describe the thesis of the work and how it connects to our recent/current common experiences of a time marked by “complexities, fear, uncertainty and increased social isolation.”
The largest piece in the exhibition, an over eight feet assembled print titled “Then and Now,” is a tour de force. Its alternating bands – cut segments of two different printed imagery – seem to be the perfect metaphor for our lives as we vacillate between seeking stability and enduring disruption. It is also an ideal example of how Sherin is able to expertly intersect and overlap the multifarious components of the visual vocabulary she has assembled over so many years.
Kathleen Sherin, Stable Structures and Disruptive Forces is on view through September 3. Buffalo Arts Studio is located at 2495 Main St., Suite 500 and their gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday 11 am – 5 pm, Saturday 10am – 2pm. For more information, visit buffaloartsstudio.org.
Lead image: Tangled Up in Blue – DRTC 1, 2021, carborundum and collagraphic monoprint, 18 x 18 inches