Thursday, January 1, 2004
Sandra Sherrod spent her life working as an oil and gas landman in the 1960s and '70s male-dominated oil industry.
It was difficult, and it was a blast, she said. But her best memories from that time were the Sunday morning brunches she shared with the few "curmudgeon" women who were in the same profession in Houston, Texas.
She moved back to her hometown of Steamboat Springs in March. Her parents, Helen and Bill Sherrod, left her an empty house in Old Town and she decided to move in for a while -- to paint and decide where her life might go, post-career.
Mostly, she has been standing in a well-lit alcove in the living room pushing paint across paper. She uses her fingers instead of a paintbrush to turn thick streaks of oil pastel into figures and stories. She works fast.
The smudges turn into faces and hands holding teacups. Women talking -- the source of Sherrod's fondest memories.
"I love people," she said. "I love sitting around talking to people, and I just carry that into my work."
She usually works on a large pad of paper and tears down the ones she doesn't like.
"You start with gestures," she said. "You know what they are going to be doing, and you go from there. It doesn't always work, but when they do, it's like it was always there.
Her thumb works across the page and creates an image of an old woman and a young woman laughing together. Their hands touch.
Not all her subjects are women. She painted one man, playing the guitar.
"Most of them are women. Women enjoy talking more than men," she said.
Because the pastels are transparent, she paints them over a scratched, monoprint background.
"There's always something underneath," she said.
In Houston, she called these paintings her "bread and butter," but this is Sherrod's first show in Steamboat Springs, and she isn't yet sure how she will be received in her hometown.
"This is a whole new audience," she said. "This is a test."
Sherrod's more experimental works will hang in the gallery with her paintings of women in conversation.
"I had this fabulous teacher (Polly Hammett) in Houston," Sherrod said. "It was one of those gifts. She worked with me for 10 years. She was always pushing me a little further. She always said, 'There's no such thing as a rule.'"
Her less traditional work features a recurring theme -- three black pears. Using oil pastels and her fingertips, the pears appear as still life or are hidden in the landscape.
In one painting, three black pears sit against a light pastel backdrop.
"The simplicity of this was the hardest thing for me," Sherrod said of the piece. "I just had to let it go."
Sherrod's show will be hung today and will be on display through the end of the month at Sleeping Giant Gallery. She chose January, because she doesn't know how much longer she'll be staying in Steamboat.
"I'm trying Steamboat," she said. "But I've already gotten so involved in this community that it will be hard to leave."