Arts and Culture

Sharon Meriash’s Laser Etchings Bring Botanical Art to Life

You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

“We all have a lot more fun when we’re doing what we want,” says Sharon Meriash, an artist who doesn’t just show her work in alternative spaces — she curates those spaces, too. As founder of Calls 4 Creatives, Meriash has facilitated 84 art exhibitions in dozens of interesting venues and says she loves putting local up-and-coming artists in front of viewers.

“That’s really important, because there are a lot of creative people in this town,” says Meriash, adding that the deal is a two-way street. “Alternative spaces benefit because they typically want great art.”

Meriash’s ultimate goal is to “step up the game,” she explains. She hopes that well-curated retail spaces will work like pop-up galleries, exposing all sorts of audiences to talented artists.

Known for her signature botanical photography, Meriash got her artistic start at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where she was a documentation photographer. Before that her job was in marketing and though she worked with photographers and was even married to one for a while, Meriash rarely nurtured her own creative inclinations.

That changed in 1997 when Meriash was in a car accident. “It allowed me to revisit what I wanted to do with life,” she recalls. Soon she moved on to a gig documenting the DBG; her last project there involved capturing over 3,000 orchid specimens. That resulted in her most popular body of work: the "Orchid Portrait" series.

The then-director at the Gardens encouraged Meriash to show her work in a public setting, so she approached the Lakewood Cultural Center. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but they were looking for art, and right out of the gate I got a fellow exhibit there,” Meriash says. Since then, she's showed at an array of venues; at one point, she even owned her own gallery. 

"Lines in Nature" is Meriash's newest venture, a way of taking her photography – particularly those photos of orchids at the Gardens – into the digital age with laser etchings. “The dilemma I always have,” Meriash explains, “is trying to put into words the process. Basically I use a laser cutter – a big tool that looks like a copy machine – and etch and burn out plexiglass with a digital file created from my original photography.”

The etching process produces detailed white imagery that follows the organic lines of each orchid. Meriash then stacks individual pieces and attaches them to wood panels. What results is a truly standout 3D sculpture.

Meriash works out of friend Judy Gardener’s studio. “We’ve always been process junkies,” Meriash says, explaining that it started when the duo began experimenting with the 3D printer they'd purchased. Learning about lasers was the natural next step.

Meriash’s latest series, “focal points," will be on display at tbellphotographic studio, April 17 through May 2, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 17. She'll also be showing her photography at Valkarie Fine Gallery and Studio in a show that runs March 11 through April 5, with a reception on April 3.

“As for myself,” says Meriash, “I still love showing in alternative spaces because they’re a great way for somebody who isn’t gallery savvy to go see good artwork.” That’s why she’ll be hanging her digital work at The MapSpa as well, with a reception currently slated for 2 to 5 p.m. on July 19. To see more of Meriash’s work, visit her website or find her on Facebook.  

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase