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)

Carl Warner

First, apologies to anyone who tried to reach this site yesterday or the day before and received an error message. The hiccup has been conquered by the cute husband and all is well in the land of creative compassion.

To make up for the missed days, I present to you some fun with naked bodies. Carl Warner puts together these amazing landscapes composed entirely of photos of naked skin.

Carl Warner

What I love about these pieces is how they illustrate the sheer beauty of the human form, even just the skin and muscles, apart from any overtly sexual reference. The body is beautiful in and of itself, not just as a tool for orgasm. The coloring and curves are simply mesmerizing, and as I look at these pictures I’m really struck at how many human-made objects are in some way imitating the perfect shape and dynamism of the body.

Lena Arice Lucas

Today, I am looking at the profound work of Lena Arice Lucas, who caught my eye with this piece, entitled “Shelter”

Lena Arice Lucas

I can look at abstract sculptures forever. Really. They strike me in a way that abstract paintings don’t, and I cannot come up with one cognitive reason why. Even though I most often look at abstract sculptures online, I still love how visceral they are. If nothing else, I can imagine how they would feel. They feel more real somehow, because they stand somewhere and have weight and texture. I’m making that up, because I really just love them and that’s all there is.

Jim M. Berberich

Art nouveau is not a new phenomenon, but it’s really been since I got on board with Pinterest that I really started to love the form. I’m really entranced by the relationship of structure and spontaneity in the form, the long elegant lines that stretch out in seemingly unpredictable patterns, but always form just what the artist had in mind. And so I bring you, Jim M. Berberich, stained glass painter.

Jim M. Berberich

Stained glass is not (in my very limited research) a typical medium for art nouveau, at least not as typical as oil paint, ink, or metalwork. Berberich puts all that is elegant and provocative about art nouveau into a painted window. This piece, inspired by Alphonse Mucha, caught my eye in particular because it is clearly art nouveau, but the color palate is very different from the warmer, duskier colors you usually see in this type of work. I love the black hair, the greens, blues, and reds in this piece. It adds a sensuality and depth of color to an already pretty sexy art form.

Jim and Connie Grant

There was a period there where I was looking at a lot of vases. A lot. Of vases. I don’t know why, but the form just caught my eye and I couldn’t see enough of them. I got over this eventually, but this piece by Jim and Connie Grant just stuck with me.

Jim and Connie Grant

I keep searching it out so I can look at it just a little longer. I love the innovation of combining blown glass with copper wire sculpture. The form of vases like this always do make me think of a woman’s naked hip, and I think the copper wire really brings that imagery out with it’s skirt or necklace-like shape. In any case, I love it, and you could love it too. All of the Grants’ work is really great, and you can check out their artwork on the Celestial Art Glass website.

Anna Kubinyi

I don’t stumble over fiber arts all that often, which is probably my own fault. I find it unusual to discover a fiber artist who escapes the trap of craftiness, cuteness, or just plain lack of innovation. I say this as a practitioner of fiber arts, and with the full knowledge that my own small work falls into all three of those categories. But today, Anna Kubinyi has defied all my expectations for fiber arts, bringing to the genre a multi-layered complexity and depth of meaning I was frankly stunned to find in a tapestry.

Tree Snake

This was the first piece to catch my eye, but all of her work I find just thrilling and deep. The website linked here is in Hungarian, but Chrome will translate it for you like it did for me. Although the font is hard to read and the translation isn’t perfect, I was still really impressed at Kubinyi’s beautiful expression in her writing as well as her artwork. I really loved reading her autobiography, which reveals so much (to me) about her spirit of strength and discovery. So now you have to check it out, just to see what the heck I’m talking about.

Zadok Ben-David

There truly are days when I feel like I can’t find anything I really want to post here. Or I find one thing I’m kind of excited about and spend the next hour trying to find the artist’s full name. then there are days like today, when I look up and an hour has evaporated, and I realize I’ve pinned about a hundred new images. Then I have to decide which one is the one for today. It’s tough being me.

This is a phenomenal artist named Zadok Ben-David, who does these distinctive metal sculptures that range from intricately miniature to soaring larger-than-life. I love them all. His depiction of nature and especially the human form is so delicate and yet so inevitable in it’s execution. As always, I’m just posting this one image, but you really should check out his website because everything he’s done is worth seeing.

Patricia Arribálzaga

I’m always on the lookout for new types of art that I haven’t featured here, and today I have found a breathtaking pastry artist, the wonderful Patricia Arribálzaga. The exquisite detail and beauty of her work would be phenomenal even if it wasn’t edible, but there it is in all its eatable glory. Her anise cookies first caught my eye with their gentle sculptured look.

Springerle German Anise Christmas Cookies

Now those cookies are amazing, and I can only assume delicious, but they honestly pale in comparison to some of the unbelievable work I found on the Cakes Haute Couture website. For example…

Romantic Toile de Jouy

Just because Arribálzaga’s company likes to show off, their pastry creations use only natural ingredients (no preservatives or additives), absolutely everything they use is edible (including ink and gold leaf), and they decline to use any natural flowers or prefabricated items in their work. All of their decorations are made exclusively from sugar paste, marzipan, or chocolate. You just have to know that before you look through all the amazing pieces on their website, so your mind can be appropriately blown.

As with a few other posts, Arribálzaga owns a company that makes a great deal of this amazing artwork, so I can’t guarantee that these particular pieces are her sole creation. I feel confident though, having read how she trains pastry artists in her unique methods and standards, that her spirit and efforts are behind these pieces.

Matthew Hamblen

Today I’m leaning a little on the angsty artist side. As I was scrolling through page after page of Angry Birds fingernail paintings, hoping to find something that expressed my particular brand of ennui, I stumbled across the sweeping surreal landscapes of Matthew Hamblen.

I love the mood of this painting, especially today. Matthew Hamblen manages to capture this subtle sense of beauty, risk, and otherworldliness. Most surrealist artwork depicts a world that I would immediately want to escape from. This piece is a world that intrigues me even as I sense its danger and strangeness.

There is a great Etsy store here with a lot of Matthew Hamblen’s paintings if you’d like to peruse.

Cheryl Sorg

I’ve been known to say that the novel is my favorite art form, because a novel is art you can rub your face in. While most visual artwork captures one feeling, or a moment in time, a novel encompasses an entire narrative, which you can see from the point of view of any character. Every important word, thought, scene, sound, taste, is included in a novel. I eat this up, and one of my greatest aspirations is to create a work of art like that.

The rub with writing an art blog is that it is hard to convey my particular art form in a palatable snippet. The nature of the novel, it’s breadth, interwoven structure, subtle and towering plot arch, resist being reduced to a blurb. Which is why you won’t find novel excerpts on this site, even though I love the novel above all other art.

Today I found an artist who loves words and stories the way I do, but whose work expresses wordy art into a visual form. I give you Cheryl Sorg. Don’t be fooled by the magazine cover on the homepage, the website is written in English.

Booklover Thumbnail Portrait

Cheryl Sorg physically deconstructs books and makes them into visual art, both 2D and 3D. If you check out her website you’ll find not only wall hangings, but sculptures and furniture made from the actual printed words of great books. I’ve seen some word art out there, but this is the first kind of word art that I feel is so faithful to the original art form (literature) without sacrificing any of the beauty or simplicity of visual art.

Another fun fact about Cheryl Sorg, is that these thumbnail portraits are custom made for each buyer. So you can order a portrait like the one above that utilized the pattern of your actual thumbprint, as well as tailoring the words and titles to your particular interests. I just love that, the infinitude of a project like that, and the idea of having a piece of artwork that is not only beautiful, but deeply a part of who I am.