Artist Profile: Cheryl Sorg

An artist profile of the amazing Cheryl Sorg! Since Monday I was burning my long weekend on a fruitless attempt to potty train my toddler, I didn’t have time to post this very adult, artsy, fascinating profile. Believe me when I tell you, I would rather be blogging.

Cheryl Sorg makes these amazing book-related collage pieces, many of them specifically tailored to the life and loves of the person they’re made for. I love how she brings literature into the realm of visual art and in such a respectful and effective way. Here’s some about her in her own words, enjoy!

What do you love about your medium?

There are a couple of things I love about it.

The first thing I love about it is its very simplicity – I am somewhat gear-averse and like to keep things really simple. My favorite forms of exercise are walking and yoga, largely because they require minimal gear and you can do them anywhere. In my art work, while my process is complex (as well as labor intensive, one might even say tedious), my materials are certainly not – they consist of paper, tape, scissors, a sticker machine – that’s pretty much it!

The other thing I love about my medium is that it is hands-on and labor-intensive, which makes it a sort of meditation for me that soothes my over-active (and often not in a good way) mind.

Children's Booklover Thumbprint Portrait
Children’s Booklover Thumbprint Portrait

Describe a piece of artwork that you find superficial or boring.

While I can’t recall a specific piece of artwork off the top of my head, I can say that, living in a small beach town that caters to beach-going tourists, one sees a lot of kind of traditional or kitschy seascape paintings and while there is no doubt I find the ocean beautiful (it kinda goes without saying), I have to admit my reaction to these sorts of paintings is often dismissive.

Family Thumbprint Portrait Detail
Family Thumbprint Portrait Detail

When did you first call yourself an artist and why?

I have always been one, always knew I wanted to do art in one form or another, but I spent a lot ( a LOT) of years cycling through many of the various ‘practical’ applications for my artistic leanings. All through my childhood I was sure I was going to be a fashion designer and would spend endless hours filling pages with drawings of dresses and shoes and the like. But after a year of college as a fashion design major, it became clear that wasn’t going to be my thing (though I still adore fashion and dream of being able to fill my closet with designer wares). I dropped out and was a bit lost for a while after that, thinking maybe I’d be an art teacher, an art therapist, who knows, until I got a camera at age 26 or so and then decided to return to college as a photography major. I studied photography (with some of the most incredible photographers as instructors) at MassArt in Boston and loved it. But the gear aversion, various experiments with other media, and, well, life, steered me in yet another direction and I began creating things with texts and book pages – collages, installations and sculptures instead of making photographs. I certainly thought of myself as an artist while in school. It’s part of the absolute glorious nature of art school – making art is your full-time job for a while there and it’s fantastic. But in addition to art courses, I took tons of literature courses and literature independent studies and even thought I might go on for a higher degree in comparative literature, so I still wasn’t calling myself an artist to the outside world so much. I think that finally happened during my time right after graduating in 1999 – at age 31. I was working a wonderful ‘day job’ as an administrator at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, in which I had a fantastic boss who was just so supportive of my art life and also in which I got the chance to interact all day with diverse, bright, cultured, lovely students all day. It was a job that supported me financially and psychologically and while I worked there I was able to crank out tons of work in my off time and begin exhibiting regularly.

Family Thumbprint Portrait
Family Thumbprint Portrait

Describe a piece of artwork and/or an artist that you find consistently inspiring.

Oh boy – there are so many. Two that come to mind immediately are from two very different artists, but I find them equally inspiring. One is a video piece I saw years ago at the San Francisco MoMA by Sam Taylor-Wood that was just so genius I was instantly jealous of her and so wished I had thought of it. It appeared at first glance to be a still photographic image of a scene of people sitting in a cafe displayed on a screen, but if you stood there for a few minutes and watched, you would notice that the woman’s cigarette was burning down, that you could see the tiniest tremors that come when people sit so very still for that long. It was brilliant, and I know I will never ever forget it. The other that comes to mind – especially because I got to see it in person for a second time this past summer on a trip to Paris – is a Van Gogh self-portrait. It is so gripping, so riveting, draws me in so completely I have cried both times I’ve stood in front of it. It’s so beautifully rendered I feel him looking at me, and as a person myself who experiences profound sadness and hopelessness and psychological despair myself more often than I care to think about, I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it – I feel like I feel his pain, I feel a profound empathy through that eye-to-eye connection. In front of that painting, I’m a little like the museum-goer in Ben Lerner’s ‘Leaving the Atocha Station’, who the protagonist watches, mockingly (somewhat enviously?) sobbing in ‘a profound experience of art’.

Interestingly, I find both of these pieces both inspiring and devastating. There’s a small part of me that feels I should throw my hands in the air and give up this crazy art-making thing when I see work so moving, so amazing, so doubtful am I that anything I create will ever move someone in that way. But I don’t. Throw my hands in the air and give up, that is. Because I have to make art, period. And if I can give, one of these days, just one person that feeling, ‘a profound experience of art’, well that would be pretty f*ing awesome.

Overlapping Skies (in progress)
Overlapping Skies (in progress)

What is your unique purpose for creating work?

I love the written word. I love books and the stories held within their pages. I am so inspired by them and comforted by them. My purpose is to celebrate those stories, as well as tell a few of my own. I’ve had this idea of ‘celebration’ in my mind lately (perhaps a summer in France did that?), and new ideas are creeping up as a result. They are not fully formed yet, are a little kooky, and revolve around this phrase: book party. Woo!

Torah (We Are All Connected)
Torah (We Are All Connected)

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