Today we’d like to introduce you to Coleen Sterritt.
Coleen, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born in Morris, Illinois and grew up in Chicago. Vast Midwestern landscapes, the grand architecture of Chicago, and summers spent along the Illinois River were part of my childhood experience. One of my father’s older brothers was a sculptor, and we grew up surrounded by his work. His wife was a painter and I was completely enamored with their bohemian life. To this day the smell of a metal shop and the site of a Chemex coffeemaker takes me right back to that time. I was also very close to my adventurous, maternal grandmother who was an all-round maker of many things. She was a well-known local gardener and a great cook who taught me to sew and crochet. I always enjoyed making things. When I went to college, I took a sculpture class as an elective and decided then that I would focus on art. It just felt right to me.
In 1976 I got my BFA from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, whose sculpture program focused on traditional mediums like welding and bronze casting. I excelled in those areas and became the first woman shop assistant. During this time, I learned that the physicality of making sculpture was very important to me as it became a measure of my energy and commitment- and it still is. After graduating I meandered across the country, stopping in San Francisco where I painted Victorian houses for a year. I then moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at Otis Art Institute while living in Clark Gable’s old hunting lodge in Sunland. After Otis, I rented a 5000 sq. ft. loft space in downtown L.A. and began showing my work soon after. For my day job, I was the proprietor of the American Hotel and bookkeeper for the newly opened Al’s Bar until I started teaching at Claremont a few years later. Since then I’ve had to opportunity to exhibit both nationally and internationally and I’ve received various awards and fellowships, most recently a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016. I’ve also been teaching for the past 35 years including significant gigs at Claremont, Otis, and CSU Fullerton. I’m currently the sculpture program head at Long Beach City College. The running joke at LBCC is that, “everyone has been Coleen’s student at some point” and they’re actually not kidding!
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I’m primarily a sculptor, but I love to draw and make works on paper that reflect the same ideas of my three-dimensional work. Improvisation has been my key methodology for quite some time. For the past twenty-five years, or so, I’ve been working with leftovers: scraps from the studio, discarded older sculptures, garden debris, found furniture, abandoned ideas of one kind or another. I like to start with a given whether a found object, material, or image and work off of it making decisions induced and directed by what’s in front of me. I find beauty in the cast-off, the imperfect, the used, the leftover. I’m looking for the wabi-sabi and inventing like a jug band, revealing the poetic of what’s hiding in plain sight.
My work is born out of movement and chance, doubt, discomfort, and desire. I attempt to understand the world by thinking with my hands as I continually recycle, reinvent, rehabilitate, redesign, and rediscover. I employ collage, assemblage, abstraction, and the readymade intersecting the highly formal with anti-form. Meaning is constructed through the relationship of form and material. Scale, characteristics of form, and the intrinsic quality of materials all produce a set of visual circumstances for consideration and continue an on-going investigation regarding the interplay between nature, culture, and my daily, lived experience. The work is directly correlated to my life: my garden, my house, my politics, my neighborhood, my emotional and psychological states, books that I read, music that I love, etc. It reveals those sources in obvious and not-so-obvious ways.
What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
Success is being in touch with your work everyday, doing it with honesty and making it resonate with love. That’s what will really sustain you as the art world can be very hard, cruel, and notoriously inconsiderate. Commitment, determination, discipline, and perseverance.
The long haul is a good measure of success. Do the work, do it everyday if you can.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I am thrilled to share that, I have a 40-yr. retrospective catalogue coming out in December produced by the Lancaster Museum of Art & History and published by Griffith Moon Publishers. The book signing will be at Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth on Dec. 9th. I’ll also be exhibiting small scale works at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art opening in January 2019. In California, my work in held in the public collections of MOCA, LACMA, and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
- Website: www.coleensterritt.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: coleen.sterritt
Photography: Laura Goble, Coleen Sterritt, Tamara Mason.