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Alternative aspects: Challenging preconceived notions of 'beauty'

 

Emmie Sherertz puts a finishing touch on a canvas Wednesday in her home studio in north Columbus. Her collection of abstract nude oil paintings of Columbus women are included in

Emmie Sherertz puts a finishing touch on a canvas Wednesday in her home studio in north Columbus. Her collection of abstract nude oil paintings of Columbus women are included in "Alternative Aspects, Blind Contour Drawing: Exploring Womanhood," to be exhibited at the Rosenzweig Arts Center in Columbus July 1-31. Sherertz and her husband Sam Sherertz are the parents of two boys, ages 4 and 6. Sam is an Air Force active reservist currently on military leave of absence from Delta Airlines. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

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Emmie Sherertz used a blind contour drawing technique to create abstract paintings, like this one, of local women.

Emmie Sherertz used a blind contour drawing technique to create abstract paintings, like this one, of local women.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Large abstracts by Sherertz using local subjects each have a different color palette.

Large abstracts by Sherertz using local subjects each have a different color palette.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Many smaller blind contour drawings by Emmie Sherertz focus on hands and feet.

Many smaller blind contour drawings by Emmie Sherertz focus on hands and feet.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Every culture has beautification rituals. In parts of the South, they entail rise and shine, put on makeup, do your hair a certain way, and don't forget the pearls.  

 

"I'm not considering this a positive or negative thing, it's just a fact of life," said Emmie Sherertz, who grew up in northwest Alabama. In college, she saw the rituals intensify around her in a negative way. Pressures to look a certain way, dress a certain way and act a certain way could turn obsessive and comparative. 

 

"I felt like (women) were on an impossible mission to reach an impossible goal, one that may not have even been clear to them," Sherertz said. "I didn't like that journey." It had a role in eventually bringing Sherertz to create her current body of work. 

 

As a sculptor and painter, Sherertz challenges standardized concepts of beauty. For the past year, she's been doing that with a series of abstract oil paintings of local women. About 50 of those canvases will be on exhibit at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center July 1-31. An opening reception is set for Friday, July 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. 

 

The collection -- "Alternative Aspects, Blind Contour Drawing: Exploring Womanhood" -- invites viewers to see the human form in a new light. 

 

"It's kind of my way to combat that need to look a certain way," Sherertz said. "It pushes you away from the perfect. ... I wanted to capture the movement of the body and not focus on idealized ideas of what the body should look like." 

 

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Sherertz used the technique of blind contour drawing for her series of nude abstracts of 10 Columbus women of different ages and ethnicities. 

 

"I draw the subject by looking at her and not my paper," explained the artist. "I'm able to turn off the logical, cognitive part of my brain and focus on how I see the line of the body at that moment." 

 

With eyes trained on her subject, Sherertz lets her hand interpret what she sees in charcoal on canvas.  

 

"After I finish the blind contour drawing, I never redraw the lines," she said. "I only apply paint to enhance the aesthetics of the body's movement." 

 

Models for the series range in age from mid-20s to early 70s. Many are close friends of the artist, fellow mothers with young children. They are new to live modeling, but Sherertz's professionalism created a comfortable environment. 

 

One Columbus mom in her late 40s who asked to remain anonymous shared, "It wasn't on my bucket list, but if I was ever going to do it, it would be for somebody like Emmie. It was more comfortable than I thought it would be." 

 

The "coolest part," said model Laura Rotermund, was seeing the color palettes the artist chose for each individual's primary painting.  

 

"I knew going in it wasn't going to look like me, but it was really neat to see how it all looks," said the mom from Chicago, who moved to Columbus almost four years ago. "Everybody is (painted) in different colors; some are bright, some are muted. I love the way mine came out." 

 

Over time, many sittings developed into something of a social experience between Sherertz and the person she was drawing. 

 

"A lot of times we'd talk about reasons why we love Columbus. Questions circled to why are you in Columbus, what brought you here ... it was a unifying factor between me and the model," she said. 

 

"Emmie's very talented, and she's got the educational background to back it up," said Carrie Martin, who also sat for paintings. Sherertz has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Auburn University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Alabama.  

 

"I've always known her appreciation for art," continued Martin, "and it's actually made me become more appreciative, too." 

 

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To paint, Sherertz sits on the floor, with her canvas flat in front of her. The practice comes from her training as a sculptor and creates a different effect than if the artwork were upright on an easel. 

 

"I can diversify my mark-making by using a different range of motions," she explained. "If it's on the floor, I'm forced to stand up, lean over, extend my arm, retract my arm. ... I want to see my brush mark in there." 

 

Sherertz sometimes pours linseed oil directly on her contour drawings and then applies paint. The process allows paint pigments to appear "suspended in oil, creating a three-dimensional effect," she said. 

 

For the artist and local women involved in the past year's effort, creating the Alternative Aspects collection has been fulfilling and liberating. 

 

"Emmie is so artistic, so talented, it was an honor for me," said Liz Fields who sat for Sherertz. "It was an invigorating experience, something I've never done before and that I'll always remember." 

 

Through large canvases and many smaller accompanying studies in her upcoming show, Sherertz strives to bring fresh perspective to "beauty."  

 

"We are incredibly critical of ourselves and others," she said. "But when you have this abstracted form, it's beyond 'beautiful,' 'ugly,' 'thin,' 'fat.' It's more than that. The end result of my painting, I hope, allows the viewer to appreciate the body in a different way."

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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