With a very unique and extensive artistic process, Sheree Friedman’s artworks come from the depths of her memories and everyday experiences. Pieced together layer by layer, her surreal resin-coated prints reflect the artist’s meditative method. “The act of creating collages from elements that call to me places me in a meditative trance-like state. I feel one with the universe. The artworks develop before me, like surrealist automatism,” she says.
Investigating the coexistence of the ancient and the modern in today’s world, she takes an almost archival approach to her art. Starting with collages made up of original drawings, found images, magazine clippings, acetate, old photos, and other materials that she calls her “sea of memories” she transforms them into surreal underwater visuals, often laced with soft purples and subtle light.
Sheree Friedman describes the viewing of art as a form of meditative absorption, a method that leads to true understanding. “When I work, I connect with my own inner divinity and light,” she says. “This enables me to best sense, witness, and connect with core energies in all things.”
You’re such a multifaceted individual! Not only are you an artist, but also a writer, a healer, and an activist. Could you talk a little bit about your professional life and how does it tie in with your art?
You refer to my personal life as that of a writer and activist. Couldn’t creating artwork be my professional life also?
Looking back, what I create visually may simply be illustrative of the way I absorb the world, activism and images of protest seeping in at instances. For example, government cutbacks in the arts sector to fund a bigger military or other political agendas is such a common thing. I have felt squeezed out, unimportant, and insignificant as an artist. There is a compulsion, an inner drive to become oneself that comes with that. Artists are driven to instinctively act in ways that foster this. And here we go again, even in 2017, the government is still proposing the same thing – eliminating the Arts and Humanities Endowments while growing the military.
The Artist wants to manifest in me, but always does so with a sense of embarrassment or ‘less than’. Stunting creative impulses along the way, I kept much of my creative side in my shadow. I consciously overrode this natural creative proclivity because, as an artist, I didn’t count. I did my undergrad in Architecture, which I love, at Pratt Institute. From early on my desire to create art was evident and seeped into my architectural designs. Joseph Campbell said that the streets in Europe are named after artists; whereas in the U.S., after businessmen.
As we moved, one of the Israeli movers was wrapping my paintings and staring at them. He commented that they all have gigantic female figures whose size suggests power, strength, and presence. These are women who should be able to overcome obstacles, even that of being just an artist. Most of those large women on those large canvases were given away to movers, cleaners and some friends. They wouldn’t fit in our smaller NYC apartment as we scaled down in haste. My artworks are smaller now.
The unmaking of a soul depends on how far it refuses to follow its own homing instinct.
Are there any cultural influences that have affected your work?
The sixties Beatles, Maharishis, Aldous Huxley books, transcendental meditation, and LSD spawned a large sense of the universe for me as did a move into studies of Carl Jung’s big collective mind, where all is connected. Perhaps much of my art is reflective of elements in Jung’s Collective Unconscious. Many of my images arise from my dreams, meditative and semi-waking states.
Forays into mindfulness immersion where all awareness of cognitive thinking lifts – a meta-cognitive state, another level of awareness – creates extraordinary moments of freedom. I’ve always felt pressed to portray these sensations and images immediately, using the most expedient methods – drawing, collages, paint, etc.
Joseph Campbell saw that within the psyches of today’s artists are the seeds of tomorrow’s mythologies. Hopefully, the concoctions in the artists’ creations will reveal more pleasant horizons for human beings.
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There is a meditative, mind-expanding quality to your artworks. Would you agree? We get a sense of submergence and weightlessness from the series you’re showing at Agora Gallery. What was the inspiration behind it?
Although I practice yoga in a contemplative state before working, the act of creating collages from elements that call to me places me in a meditative trance-like state. I feel one with the universe. The artworks develop before me, like surrealist automatism, as I listen to faded, dreamy Chillwave, Glo-fi, Hypnogogic, vapor-wave sounds, Philip Glass, Hildegard von Bingen: Canticles of Ecstasy and Moby. I feel like an antenna system in this state as I surf the wavebands gathering images.
Energy Medicine training gave me an awareness of, and sensitivity to, human energy fields. Dissolving physical, emotional and spiritual energy blocks and opening my chakras, forges a connection with the overall Energy Field, hence creating a higher or different sense of perception. While collage making and drawing, I travel and live in the expanded world of energy work. The boons are personal healing, entry to a New Earth and forthcoming, submerged, perhaps weightless-looking images.
The collages you compose for your work, is there a particular system you follow? Or do you just put together all the different elements according to your aesthetic vision?
There’s a blurring of time right now, the coexistence of the ancient and the contemporary. The ancient is in us and the now is blaring at us in our faces. It is easy to forget the past, as this new present emerges at a rapid rate. My work wants to show this in juxtaposing images – the then and the now, floating TVs from bygone days, etc. This is particularly evident in my Shanghai is Burning mixed media collage works. These images lingered after numerous visits to China. Deep variations between the dark, old, ornate, curved, and tiled roofs of ancient Chinese architecture hidden beneath the new gleaming-with-pride tall building geometries left chiaroscuro images in my mind. Stratifying them is an organic process. These neo-surreal landscapes are a layering of my imagination’s best and worst of scenarios.
While collage making and drawing, I feel like a space cowgirl, an explorer; making collages from elements that call to me, into images that seem beyond real. Perhaps a deconstruction of the ‘real’ around me into new images that could provide impetus to viewers to explore new, more pleasant horizons and images that might hold some universal healing energies:
1. I construct small, layered collages of drawn images, magazine clippings, acetate, old photos, architectural drawings, dried plants or sand – layers of many memories and things.
2. I reproduce and enlarge this collage on my printer.
3. I rework this image with pencils, acrylic and oil paint, more layers of acetate, tissue and graph paper, etc.
4. This final collage is further enlarged and reproduced on a cutting edge new version of fine art High Definition photographic paper that captures every detail and texture.
5. This final print, considered the original, is coated with resin and pressed between the rigid backing and matte U.V. plexi to further enhance a sense of depth – Sheree’s signature aesthetic – metaphorical images viewed as though within the ocean’s depths.
You also make use of text in your work, is that to provide a direction to the audience viewing your work?
Often, I have made art out of frustration, escape or an impulse to show what I am picking up. These are illustrative, even didactic hieroglyphics, worth many words, to which I occasionally add some text as a nudge for a viewer towards what I’m indicating.
There are a few recurring objects in your work – dragonflies, the image of a brain etc. Could you talk about what these mean to you/ the symbolism behind them?
Dragonflies do frequently appear in my work. They predate dinosaurs, having lived on our planet for 325 million years. While their iridescence is stunning, they are my metaphor, and a constant reminder of the very old, reptilian, primitive portions of our brains, whose rigidity and compulsiveness have often led to our demise.
Although, the Dalai Lama and neuroscientists have concluded that our brains, which appear in my paintings, have neuroplasticity in response to meditation and experiences, our prior, epigenetic and innate programing often override our conscious wishes. We can evolve and upgrade.
I want to observe, stay open to and portray neuroplasticity and its potentials through self-examination and meditation. We are like stacking dolls and tree rings, with the ever-present dragonfly, a reminder of the ancient and the more primitive brain in our core. The primitive is still alive in us during the Aquarian Age as endless human patterns unfold through us, grab hold of us and move us.
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