#97: Sharon Meriash
In the last few years, longtime Denver botanical photographer, curator and Girl Friday at William Havu Gallery Sharon Meriash has taken what started as a technological experiment and run with it. Her current work starts with her floral photo imagery, which she then etches and cuts into Plexiglas shapes, using a laser, and spins into layers for a translucent 3-D effect. For Meriash, it represents a new lease on creative life. Join her on that adventure, via the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Sharon Meriash: I have two artists and one writer who continue to speak to me personally and professionally and, if possible, I believe would expand my creativity through intimate conversation alone. I would love to experience a fantasy day with each of them.
First, a day with my female hero Georgia O’Keeffe, walking with her beloved chows under the vast New Mexico sky while discussing botanical art, relationships and how to be a fiercely independent female artist.
Second, a visit with the late Pop Art king Tom Wesselmann and his beautiful wife and model, Claire, discussing their relationship as artist and muse – and hopefully fabricating a large laser piece in his studio with his guidance. A few years ago, I was directed to see his show at the DAM by a fellow artist and friend who said, “Go, Sharon. You will see yourself.” Thank you, Bob — I truly did.
Next, I have always dreamed of having a long dinner, a Scotch and cigar with my favorite American writer, Jim Harrison, and discussing his love of life, wine, women and poetry. His understanding of how to truthfully formulate female characters will always intrigue me and inspire my poetry. He was the greatest of storytellers, and I will always be grateful for the personal insight True North gave me.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Iranian painter and sculptor Mohsen Vaziri-Moghaddam. He strikes me as an artist truly ahead of his time. I am in love with his large-scale interactive wooden sculptures and his 1974 Plexiglas sculpture series titled Articulated. His take on introducing new work in a new media speaks to me. He says, “Society does not understand new art...which is loneliness.” If you are not aware of his work, I encourage you to seek him out. In May 2004, he exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum in Tehran with Gerhard Richter and was hailed as the best Iranian artist of the century. He inspires me and the direction of my current work.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Recently, Denver artist Regan Rosburg was featured by Westword as a Colorado Creative, and I was very impressed by her brave and pointed answer to this same question. A part of her answer really spoke to me: “Also, in this age of instantaneousness, the title of 'artist' gets tossed around too loosely. To me, artists struggle. It’s not part-time. It’s your life — your whole life, even while you sleep. It takes a long time to earn that title...and it should.” I completely agree with her. I have worked on crafting my skill as a photographer most of my life. I have been exhibiting my images and the work based on those images for almost twenty years. My work has evolved over time, with the encouragement of many mentors and artists over the years, with success and failure. And while I embrace the ease of working in the “instantaneous digital age,” I do find that it seems to negate the life I have spent developing as an artist.
What's your day job?
Currently my day job is raising our six-month-old Jack Russell terrier, Comet, to be a gallery and studio dog! She is quite a joyful handful and was introduced to the art world at just nine weeks, during a New Mexico road trip to pick up art and visit several Santa Fe artists’ studios. She regularly attends art openings, hangs in the studio and has her own Instagram page that has become quite a hit!
I am also very fortunate to be able to spend a great deal of time being involved in the arts locally and regionally through social-media management and involvement with my significant other’s Denver gallery, William Havu Gallery. I also host the First Fridays Denver group on Facebook, which keeps me in touch with over 3,700-plus FFD fans, artists and events all over the city. And for many years, I organized themed art events in unique venues in Denver’s Tennyson Street Cultural District and the Art District on Santa Fe. I created, produced and curated over eighty signature art events. I worked with hundreds of emerging and established artists locally and from all over the world. The reason I mention this is to highlight an issue I address in questions later: the lack of affordable venues and art-related spaces in Denver.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would see how I could help another recent Colorado Creative, Damon McLeese, and his organization Very Special Arts Colorado. They do an amazing job providing services and support for the disabled artistic youth of Denver. VSA Colorado and Access Gallery have a very special place in my heart, and I would love to be in a position to donate funds that would allow them to expand their services for all disabled artists in finding their way in life as creatives, especially during this time of a very cruel national administration.
Next, I would finance a group to lobby the City of Denver to repurpose as many buildings as possible to house and provide live/work spaces for local artists and their families, with rents based on a sliding scale and to include rent-free opportunities for those in need.
And lastly, for myself, I would love the luxury to spend freely on creating art on a very large scale. In my mind, I see botanical murals of my photo-based Plexiglas art. And adding an interactive element to my work would be a dream come true. To create without the constraints of a budget would be an amazing experience. Now, back to the real world!
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
To quote one of my favorite writers: “It makes sense that if you stand almost daily in the middle of a perfect crescent of shore, with a vista open to eternity, you will conceive of possibility different from someone raised in a wooded valley or among the canyons of a big city.” — Claire Messud
It’s no secret to those who know me well that I am a beach girl at heart, born and raised on the beautiful island shores of North Carolina. I came to Denver almost thirty years ago and have always said that if we had an ocean near by, it would be perfect. When your veins are filled with sea salt, the sea is always calling. But just a few years ago, as I seriously contemplated moving to a small beach town in California, I was asked to stay and reminded of why what I have here is so precious.
What keeps me here is the chosen family that I have created with my significant other. We have a unique group of artists and friends in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona whom we consider our family. Our relationships are filled with their love, art and support. They give me reason to love Denver! Plus, we are fortunate to live on a lake, and the nearness of the water keeps my heart and soul happy and creative.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Listen up, City of Denver! You tout our city as a thriving arts and culture scene, and on so many levels, we are! Yet at the same time, I feel you have abandoned the working artists. Many communities that were born out of the arts and made “hot spots” by local artists have been destroyed by the infrastructure that followed, causing rents to increase or affordable spaces to completely disappear. I know of dozens of artists and galleries who have lost affordable work spaces in the last few years — many who have had to abandon their creative lives altogether due to not having space in their homes to create.
Why is the city not providing tax breaks and other incentives to landlords or art patrons to rent to artists who are trying to survive Denver’s ever-changing landscape? Or, better yet, Denver, consider building or rehabbing your own live/work buildings. It truly upsets me to see this happen in our city, where we should be leading the way. For inspiration, check out city- and art-patron-supported artists’ developments in New Orleans, L.A. and my personal fave, 601 Studios in Manhattan.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
The one and only Colorado artist Judy Gardner. I am fortunate to work with her in her studio Alchemical Eye in Arvada and see firsthand her genius at work. She has taken 3-D-printed art to a new level. I am thrilled that her creations are in the Fabricating Nature show currently on display at William Havu Gallery.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I have been working on a series I call "Wood Doodles" that I have been invited to show in August in an exhibition titled Don’t Bug Me! for the Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Frederic Hamilton Family Gallery. I am having great fun working in wood with the laser and creating works based on my floral doodles from time I spent in Hawaii in 2015. I have always wanted to create kid-friendly interactive work in hopes of inspiring the next generation of artists.
In September, I will be in Paris and Berlin on an extended vacation. I lived in Paris for a brief period many years ago, so I am anxious to see how the city has changed and what the current art scene holds. And I have never been to Berlin, so I can’t wait to see the cutting-edge galleries and performance spaces. I am open to being incredibly influenced as an artist by this adventure.
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Friend and local painter Lola Montejo. She is not only an amazing creative, but a woman who has faced many life-changing challenges, yet continues to pursue her art with a vengeance. I have known her for many years and have seen her work develop and transform. Her thesis show, FORCE, recently opened at the Robert Bullock Gallery on the Azusa Pacific University campus just outside Los Angeles. A brief description of the show — “Forces can be natural or supernatural, internal, and external, brought on by nature or come from within” — says so much about who she is. Trust me, she will be a true force in Denver very soon!