The official opening of the exhibit, Feb. 6
“Thought-provoking, colorful, sparkly, free-spirited and inviting,” said artist Sherry Whetstone-McCall as she described the art quilts in her exhibit, “Collections: A Visual Journey of Art Through the Eyes of Sherry Whetstone-McCall.”
Not only does “Collections” showcase 37 years worth of artwork by Whetstone-McCall, it additionally showcases work by her son, her friends and a portion featuring “Domestic Violence Awareness Installation.”
Whetstone-McCall has been creating art quilts since 1982 and has had her work showcased in countless exhibitions – in venues including the United States Embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum – but she explained that being able to do a solo show at Stocksdale was a unique opportunity for her.
“When I was offered the opportunity to come into this gallery for a solo show, I felt like that would be an opportunity to offer them my vision and hope that they would accept it,” said Whetstone-McCall.
The artist’s vision to have a culmination of her own work, work done by her friends from her personal collection, work by her son and the “Domestic Violence Awareness Installation” was a unique opportunity, especially since most galleries don’t often want an artist’s gallery if the artist does not want to sell the work.
“And I have no intention of selling anything in this exhibit,” said Whetstone-McCall.
Whetstone-McCall emphasized that the way the exhibit has unfolded holds much significance for her.
“[It is a] very spiritual show for me – the best show ever. And I’ve been in a lot of shows, but this one is the most meaningful,” Whetstone-McCall said.
The different elements of this show have been coming together for years. Besides being an artist, Whetstone-McCall works with domestic violence survivors at a Synergy Services, and she explained that being an advocate for these women has always been something she is passionate about.
“I’ve always been drawn to women and their issues and especially domestic violence. I don’t understand, except that I have a big mouth and I will always advocate for them,” said Whetstone-McCall.
In the “Domestic Violence Awareness Installation,” there is a purple velvet dress covered with squares with handwritten phrases such as “Silence hides violence” and “Love does not hurt.”
Whetstone-McCall explained that one day she found the purple velvet dress at the thrift store.
“Normally, I would wear it, but that wasn’t what my spirit wanted me to do,” said. Whetstone-McCall.
She had the survivors and employees at the domestic violence shelter write on muslin squares.
“So I said, write about your feelings and whatever else is going on in your life then I will embellish it,” said Whetstone-McCall.
In the installation, there is also a small colorful art quilt with a mirror on it, called “I Am Perfect.”
Whetstone-McCall relates what is behind this piece.
“When I was making that piece I was thinking, ‘Why do women get trapped into that situation?’ and it’s always because we don’t think we are good enough and we let someone manipulate us. That’s why that piece is called ‘I Am Perfect’ so that you can look at yourself and say ‘I am perfect,’” said Whetstone-McCall.
Whetstone-McCall said that at the time she made the piece, she didn’t foresee where exactly she would showcase it, but she is happy with how it came together in “Collections.”
Whetstone-McCall addressed that for some pieces in “Collections”, she has been waiting for the right opportunity to exhibit them. The artist said that ever since her son, Ronald, died in 2016, she knew she had to display his work somewhere.
“When my son passed, I saw all of his beautiful work, and I said ‘his work is too beautiful to be in my house so one day I am going to exhibit his work,’” said Whetstone-McCall.
Whetstone-McCall’s exhibit also pays tribute to artwork by her friends, mentors
Whetstone McCall’s own work in the gallery exhibits a journey, starting with one of her first pieces “Rhythm in My Soul: The Dancer” to one of her most recent pieces “For my Son.” Each piece tells a story –her art quilts are colorful, inviting, intricate and contemplative. To spend hours in this exhibit would be easy. Embedded within the quilts are pictures, beads, shells, names and, above all, stories of her life.
Whetstone McCall recalled something her son used to say to her in regards to her work.
“My son always said, ‘Mom you could make art out of anything’ and I do,” said Whetstone-McCall.
Whetstone McCall explained that the full impact of her show only became evident to her recently.
“It took me about a day or two to realize that every piece of work in this show is from someone who has suffered loss, grief or is ill right now with cancer or something like that. Every single piece. Someone has suffered some kind of loss in their life,” said Whetstone-McCall.
For Whetstone-McCall, the realization of the exhibition’s theme lead her to understand that her show is about healing, embracing your circumstances, and moving forward with it in some way.
“All these years I’ve been collecting these works not realizing the impact it was gonna have,” said Whetstone-McCall. “So it is a very powerful, powerful show to me.”
Photos by Harper Vincent and Hannah Koehler