Sherry Wiggins is a traveler in life and in art, resulting in a multi-disciplinary practice with an international scope. Add a feminist outlook, and you’ve got a powerful artist who makes work that covers the gamut from drawing to performance, sometimes paying tribute to the oeuvres of other women artists whose work she admires. Socially conscious, thoughtful, conceptually brilliant and an active member in arts communities far and wide, Wiggins crosses oceans, bringing people and ideas together wherever she goes. Learn more about Wiggins, a participant in Month of Photography 2019, as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Sherry Wiggins: I am lucky to have many intense creative relationships with other artists and thinkers and curators. These relationships are with people all over the world who have become my close friends and collaborators. I have also consciously formed specific, unique relationships with women artists who are either long dead or not available to me in person with my ongoing project Searching Selves With Remarkable Women Artists of the 20th Century.
These artists include Russian-American filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961), Indian minimalist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990), Portuguese conceptualist Helena Almeida (1934-2018), Brazilian artist Mira Schendel (1919-1988), and, forthcoming, French surrealist Claude Cahun (1894-1954). I research their work, enter their territory and make my own art in relationship to theirs. They are all my heroines and my muses.
One of my important, personal muse relationships is with curator and writer Cydney Payton. She understands the arc of my artistic practice and process, and I hope I understand hers, as well. Her eye on my work is invaluable. I have similar intense creative relationships with other artist friends, such as Sama Alshaibi and Yana Payusova. In 2006 we formed "6+ a women’s art collective" with other women artists. We traveled to Palestine multiple times, ultimately producing a traveling exhibition with remarkable Palestinian women artists. These women artists continue to inspire me, and we share an important creative bond.
I have also formed a reciprocal-muse relationship over the last four years with Portuguese photographer Luís Branco. With my performative photographic work, which takes place in natural surroundings in Portugal, Luís and I have created a fertile and intuitive process. The combination of a foreigner (me) and a native, a female and a male, a conceptual artist and a photojournalist, is potent. Some of our collaborative work will be on display at RedLine in the exhibit Delirium, curated by Mark Sink during Month of Photography in March.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Surrealist filmmaker Maya Deren, performative conceptual artist Helena Almeida and fabulous Claude Cahun. We would speak French, drink Portuguese wine and, after dessert, create a performance about feminine subjectivity. Maya Deren would film it.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
My closest local creative community includes Teresa Booth Brown, Karla Dakin, Sandra Firmin, Jennifer Heath, Ana María Hernando, Jane McMahan and Barbara Shark, with whom I have well-developed and intimate art relationships. We are all good cooks as well as good artists and art aficionados. Our dinner parties are wonderful events. We all pitch in, make delicious dishes, share cherished and painful times, discuss our work. We attend each other's shows; we support each other, like an extended family.
How about globally?
I am extremely blessed to have a large global art community, as well. I have spent much time working in Palestine, and I have attended residencies in India, Portugal (probably my favorite place) and, most recently, in Brazil. My relationship to global art and culture has become the most stimulating aspect of my art practice. Putting myself in this position as an outsider — trying to learn new languages, looking at contemporary art from other cultures, being open to people, exploring new territory — makes my work more vital.
What’s missing from the region's photography scene, and what would make it better?
I am not trained in photography, and I am not part of the regional photography scene. I look forward to learning more about it by being a part of Month of Photography this year. Of course I admire the work of Albert Chong, Kirsten Hatgi Sink and Melanie Walker. Ask me this question next month!
Denver (or Colorado) — love it or leave it? What keeps you here, or makes you want to leave?
I love Colorado. I have lived here since I was fifteen years old. I raised my children here, I have wonderful family and friends, a beautiful house and studio (designed by my partner, Jamie Logan), and I get to leave quite a bit, so that returning is always fresh and a joy.
What’s your dream project?
My dream is to complete Searching Selves With Remarkable Women Artists of the 20th Century, which has been in process for the past five years. I would like to work with an amazing woman curator (I know several) and show all the drawings, performative photographs, research and writings together, then make a beautiful book about the project. The final artist in the project will be Claude Cahun, perhaps the most complex of all the artists I have explored. She was a cross-dresser, a lesbian, an intellectual, a photographer, a surrealist writer and a Jewish anti-Nazi activist. She was extremely multi-faceted and really pretty strange. She lived the last part of her life in the Channel Islands on Jersey. The archive of all her work is held at the Jersey Heritage Museum, where I hope to go and do my research.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I think Margaret Neumann’s retrospective at RedLine this year was magnificent. I respect Margaret so much; she is a heroine of mine. She has consistently created beautiful, highly personal paintings, and she is smart and just follows her gut.
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What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am returning to Portugal to the Obras Artist Residency in April to complete the body of work-in-nature with Luís Branco. We will have a large exhibit of this work titled Incarnate / Encarnado in Portugal in 2020. I will spend the month of May in a quiet residency in the Dutch countryside, where I hope to draw and start my Claude Cahun project. I have a show in October at Michael Warren Contemporary, so I am working on new drawings for it.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I believe in the power of a good curator. I think Mardee Goff is highly talented. We have developed a stimulating relationship, and I would love to see her utilized in a big capacity. Conceptual artist Jim Johnson was a professor of mine in the ’80s at CU. I love it when an artist continues to make kick-ass work in their later years. He is a fabulous intellectual artist. I love his “word art” and would like to see more of his work out and about.
Sherry Wiggins’s performative photographic work with Portuguese photographer Luís Filipe Branco will be showing during Month of Photography 2019 in two group exhibitions: Photography Now, March 5 through April 13 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive (opening reception Thursday, March 7, 5 to 8 p.m.), and Delirium, Three Visions, March 9 through April 7 at RedLine Contemporary Art Center, 2350 Arapahoe Street (opening reception Saturday, March 9, 6 to 9 p.m.).
Learn more about Sherry Wiggins and her work online.