May 5, 2011 in Washington Voices

South Hill artist finds inspiration in transposing elements

 
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Michael Sherriffs Hall stands last week in his South Hill basement studio where he paints and creates sculptures.
(Full-size photo)

Art quote of the week

“If you look for it, there is true magic all around us. Maybe that sounds trite to the hardened self-protective modern ego, but there is magic in this miraculous life. If you open yourself, you do make yourself vulnerable to pain but the deeper pain you experience, the deeper joy you can have.”

– Mark Ryden, contemporary “lowbrow” artist

Exhibit

Michael Sherriffs Hall’s exhibit at Caterina Winery opens with a reception on Friday, 6 to 9 p.m.

On the Web: www.michaelsherriffshall.com

Upon entering Michael Sherriffs Hall’s South Hill home, you are at once transported into a gallery of strange landscapes where even the figurative pieces appear organic.

In the main living room, more than a dozen square canvases, some stacked by threes, sit on a built-in shelf above eye level. On a dark background, the paintings look like rock formations or twisted roots, but they are actually hands, sets of hands posing, almost interacting in a sort of hand language. It is a visually stunning, curious and thought-provoking display.

On his website, Hall describes his style as “weird, surreal, iconographic, dark, visionary, and elemental.” Categorized as “Air,” “Earth,” “Fire,” “Flesh” and “Spirit,” his work symbolically represents the gamut of human nature.

When asked what his “message” is he replied, “I think a lot of how I create art is done on a subconscious level. I don’t always have a ‘message’ that I am trying to convey with my work. A lot of times I just see images that seem to appeal to me for various reasons. I’ll see an image and think that it’s cool, but what if it had a different background or something growing out of it? I like to play with transposing various elements together; foreground and background, light and dark, cold and warm, earth, flesh, fire, sky and bone.”

Hall’s earliest recollection of a creative streak is from kindergarten. “My teacher displayed letters for us to copy,” he recalled, “I made mine quite elaborate but she told me that I wasn’t doing it right.” Still, Hall maintained his desire to “think outside of the box,” going on to graduate from the Seattle Art Institute with a degree in visual communications.

He went on to show his work at a dozen venues in the Tri-Cities area and then he stopped for a while. “I wasn’t in a good place,” he said, “The death of my mother and a divorce had me rethinking life and faith.” He was working for an electronics manufacturer in Pullman.

A couple of years ago, he met his current wife, Ellen, online. She lived in Spokane and he moved here. They married a year ago. He continued to commute to Pullman for work but recently decided to focus on his art. “I’ll find a part-time job here,” he said, “I really want to create.”

For the past couple of years, he has been doing just that – expanding his subject matter to match his more positive outlook with vibrant colors and bolder images. A trip to a Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert also fueled him; he plans on creating a large interactive sculpture out of plastic doll parts.

Hall’s first showing in Spokane was this year during the group exhibit “Raw Space.” Through May, he will have his first solo exhibit at Caterina Winery, 905 N. Washington St. The show will be a representation of the different elements. He also plans on becoming more involved in the local art community and applying to regional art festivals. “I continue to experience and enjoy the universe through art.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you have a story idea,email it to Jennifer LaRue at jlarue99@hotmail.com.


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