Joan Sherman grew up in New York City and studied both in art and design, attending Sarah Lawrence College and Parson’s School of Design. As the daughter of a fashion designer whose drawings are in the libraries of The Metropolitan Museum, FIT and Cooper Union, Sherman grew up with the philosophy that all visual arts are interrelated.
This perspective led her to explore a broad variety of materials. Creating sculptures that explore the juxtaposition of natural and architectural form, Sherman’s work often involves casting directly from organic material, such as branches, dried flowers and leaves. Once cast in bronze, these materials are bent and welded together in ways that further emphasize their inherent fluidity of form, their density or weightlessness, their relationship to the landscape. The introduction of angular geometric forms into some of these pieces both frames them and makes a reference to architecture as an organizing force.
It was designing her first home that served as inspiration for the functional work that followed. Her frustration with pedestrian solutions to lighting and furniture and her love of beautiful craftsmanship led her to make her own lighting fixtures and tables. She now creates unique pieces of art furniture made in bronze and employing the same live burn-out casting method used in her sculpture. Each of these pieces is created by the artist’s hand- welded together and patinated individually.
She has recently developed her first limited edition table, using molds to cast multiples of bronze branches that form a side table. Because these can be reproduced according to the prototype she has originated, it provides a more accessible version of her work, while maintaining her high standards.
She has also created lighting fixtures in wood. Forest Canopy fixtures are made by weaving wood branches through a metal frame. The lighting is designed to cast shadows on the ceiling, evoking the experience of a walk through the woods.
Sherman paints in encaustic, an ancient technique, using hot tools to apply pigmented beeswax and resin to wood panels. The resulting colors shift subtly as you move around them and reflect the changing light of day.
The artist is presently developing a line of textiles based on hand-painted artwork that has been scanned and digitally printed. Her investigation of this meeting of the digital world and the hand-made has yielded some lushly layered colors and textures. She has also ventured into designing furniture that will be upholstered with her textile art. In doing so, she creates a symbiotic relationship between surface and form. Creating the artwork for a specific form offers unique opportunities for the use of pictorial space.
The attitude of the work is often whimsical and playful. A bench upholstered in hand-painted fabric has a design of giant ferns wrapping its form, giving the person sitting in it a curiously child-like feeling of scale. A hand-blown glass bowl appears to be carried on the back of a crustacean gone wild, made up of a tangle of claws, cast in bronze.
Sherman’s work has been published in Architectural Record, Avenue, Elle Décor, House and Garden, The New York Times, The Daily News, Art and Antiques and Architectural Lighting, Connecticut Cottages and Gardens and Architectural Digest.
Joan Sherman shows her work, by appointment only, in her Soho studio, 135 Greene Street, 212-387-0866. Designers and private clients can commission unique pieces directly from the artist or choose from pieces on exhibit. Studio visits are always scheduled so that there is time to enter into the artist’s process and apply it to the particular demands of the project.