Artist Elizabeth Sher Plays With Perception

She hopes viewers experience her imagery as something seen or remembered.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

The work of Oakland filmmaker and mixed-media artist Elizabeth Sher is an examination in perception. In her words, it is an exploration in what is seen, the interaction of sight and memory, the construction of narrative, and how this process ultimately informs our understanding of the world.

“With varying degrees of seriousness and humor, I attempt to re-examine and stretch the viewer’s process of perception,” Sher said.

Her hope is that the viewer experiences her imagery as something seen or remembered. “While a work may not correspond to a specific vision or memory in the viewer’s experience, it suggests the familiar through a sense of sight, recall, and narrative,” she said.

Sher counts among her influences the artists William Kentridge, Bruce Conner, and Lynn Hershman Leeson — artists whom Sher describes as moving freely between static and moving images, paint and pixels, traditional and new media. She also cites Philip Guston for his gutsy movement from abstract to narrative imagery.

“And I’m inspired by Lucille Ball for her humor and business acumen,” she said.

Having grown up in Washington, D.C., Sher carries a proclivity toward following politics, though she finds it challenging in today’s climate. In her youth, her dad took her to the movies every weekend to give her mom a break. When he gained a client that owned movie theaters, she got in for free.

“My dates loved that,” she said.

Sher came to California to attend UC Berkeley where she received her BFA and an M.A. in art. She has lived all over the Bay Area and resides now in the Jack London Square district. Active in the art community since the late 1970s, Sher is also professor of art emeritus at California Collage of the Arts in Oakland.

From her studio at West Grand and Adeline, Sher begins with smaller works and photographs inspired by artist residencies attended in New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Iceland, and most recently, Morocco, as well as time spent in a little cottage on the Russian River. Working both on and off the computer, she uses digital tools like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere and then mixes in paint and drawing materials.

Whether making films and videos or creating art in other media, Sher said her entire approach could be accurately summed up as an ongoing process of framing and editing.

“I work at the intersection of nature and technology, both of which are important influences,” Sher said, adding that “the eventual encounter between the viewer and the work is that moment when the most crucial and refreshingly unpredictable aspect of my practice as an artist takes place and serves to complete the work.”

A public screening of her 2017 documentary Rituals of Remembrance: Exploring the Art of Mourning took place in Tetouan, Morocco, while she was in residence in February.

Sher’s current projects include a documentary about Berkeley artist Edith Hillinger, titled Edith: Collaging Cultures and a mockumentary about what happened to ’70s punk rock star “Connie.” She is also showing paintings and drawings in a solo exhibit at Mercury 20, where she is a member, through June 16.

For more information about Elizabeth Sher, visit her websites, IVStudios.com and PennyTheDocumentary.com or connect on Facebook (Elizabeth Sher Art & Film).

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