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The Great Creators

Enhancing Our Community’s Cultural Landscape One Creative Project at a Time

(page 6 of 8)

Fresh Frontiers

Scott Sherk

Scott Sherk teaches sculpture and sound art at Muhlenberg College. Former students unequivocally shared how his class was a highlight at the school and an eye-opening experience. He is clearly committed to challenging and bringing out the best in the undergraduates.

“I hope to teach my own students that working hard and caring very deeply about what you do is all that matters,” Sherk states.

In addition to being a highly regarded instructor, he has successfully pursued an idiosyncratic path as a cutting edge artist. His diacritical explorations of internal and external space inhabit fresh frontiers where sound, sculpture and installation art conjure questions you had not thought to ask.

Sherk spent a year living in Japan with his family. This experience continues to influence his work and that of his collaborator and spouse, Pat Badt. “I was overwhelmed by the visual effect of the dry rock gardens like Ryōan-ji whose sense of scale is so mysterious and intangible,” Sherk enthuses. “One sits at a viewing platform and stares into the empty space as it morphs from close to far and enormous to tiny. I get the same effect from a Giacometti standing figure at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It makes one pay attention to one’s perception and recognize reality for what it is—a work in progress.”

This protean progression is evident in his creation, “River on 86th Street,” where Sherk uses minimal means for maximum impact. He deftly pairs a video of the East River in New York City with a non-idiomatic soundscape. The leaden movement of the water merges with gripping frequencies and subtle rustlings to produce a mesmerizing, narcotic affect. The variegated surface of the river becomes a kinetic painting filled with slowly shifting hues and shapes. This piece manages to be both disturbingly synthetic and lovely.

Water is implied in his playfully conceptual installation piece, entitled: “Hut View” (created for the garden of Katonah Museum of Art, New York.) Visitors are invited to walk on an elevated ramp that leads to a small wood hut. As you move toward the structure, you journey across a river of long parallel strings above a blue ground covering. The hut has five windows precisely positioned to frame views of the surrounding landscape. Four painted metal elements and eight elevated platforms also inhabit the garden.

While exploring the visual treats from the peaceful hut, the viewer’s perceptions were further sculpted by the shifting environmental sounds.

Sherk’s art gradually gets inside your head and knocks down demarcating presuppositions that habitually immure perception. His work might seem austerely cerebral on paper, yet it is physically engaging, fun and illuminating for the adventurous participant. As he expertly engages tangible and intangible materials, his aesthetic trajectory is taking him deeper into fascinating realms of richly hybridized abstraction.

Recently Sherk has been traveling to several Pennsylvania Quaker meetinghouses making audio recordings that document the ambiance of these aurally active, empty rooms. He and collaborator Badt are freezing these sounds into separate continuous tones. He explains further, “We are pairing these sounds with CDs that we are treating to create the ambient color of the light in the meetinghouse rooms when they spin. We will have five different meetinghouse sounds blending and harmonizing with themselves and the sound of the world around them.” This intriguing piece, entitled, “Quaker Harmonizer,” will be installed in Sweden at the exhibition, “Instrument at the Kulturmollan in Lovestat.”

Additionally, he is having a one-man show at the Frank Martin Art Gallery of Muhlenberg College entitled, “Surround.” The show opens in September.


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