Artist: Sherry Markovitz (Millet)

The most important aspect of my work is that it is circular, not linear. I weave in and out of themes and materials, sometimes developing an idea with new materials and ideas, sometimes returning to the simplicity of paint and paper. I move back and forth between two and three dimensions.
My earliest paintings are of domestic and confined animals. Landscapes of sheep, donkey and elephants speak of comfort and security, which correspond to the death of my father. They are large, ambitious paintings, some with beads and sequins. The paintings moved into sculpture, as they could no longer be contained in two dimensions.

When my mother died in 1985, I returned home and began a series of doll paintings. With leftover pieces of metal (from the building of my house) I did a series in oil paintings on metal. They spoke about loss and fragmentation. That period lasted about a year, the time it takes to heal from a loss (according to the Talmud). The last of these works still contained emptiness, but also fertility in their reference to flowers and spring.

The birth of my son in 1988 was a quiet and happy period. I began to do simplified shapes using beads, but as monochromatic skins. Gourds were cut up, reassembled, and beaded simply, accentuating their sensuous curves and contours.

Currently, I am back to painting on paper.

The aspect of collective memory refers to something people of my generation all remember. For people of future generations these iconic images become collectibles. “Collectibles” does, in fact, refer to our collective memories. It is important that these works not be nostalgic or sentimental, but offer a departure point for all of us to remember as we face the future.


Describe yourself in 3 words: Determined, Overly-sensitive, Loving.

What is your life motto? Be honest with yourself.
Keep your work real. Go where your work takes you. Work through the difficult times. Enjoy yourself.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? Having a career was a trade off – if I was to be an artist I had to do the things that went along with it. I never thought about it as a career, I just pursued my art. Having a career was always a pain in the ass for me. I wanted to live as an artist.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? If I counted I’d never become an artist. I never count. I never said, “If I don’t do it in two years I’m never going to do it.”

I had a father who was a very good business man and learned a lot from him. Not about business but about people.

Describe how difficult the business really is? It’s very difficult. I don’t think you can imagine how difficult it is. Nothing is straight forward. Everything is indirect. You have to use your instincts all the time. Things appear one way and they are about something else. Usually I can figure out most people, enough to manage my life. You deal with people that are unfathomable. I don’t know how it is in other creative fields. There is a lot of stress that goes along with it. You better have a good relationship or person that you can confide in and trust. There is a lot of mistrust in this business. It never is what you think it looks like. It’s tricky.

But some of it’s fun, some of it’s good, but it’s hard! 

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I don’t think it was any particular one, it was a series of differentiating between what I was doing and how people saw it and learning to let people have their own opinions without it letting affect, how I saw myself.

Georgia O’keefe said, “I learn to take positive reviews and put them in the same wastebasket.”
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? From my father – I was complaining that someone took a percentage, “If they do their job they earn it.” And have fun, don’t do it unless you enjoy it.

What is the piece of advice that you weren’t? You only can use advice when it’s critical to you at that time. You can’t use advice if you’re not ready to use it. So I don’t know what it was. When you want to live a creative life and express yourself, you don’t really hear advice. You have to be able to listen. I only listen at the moment that I need it. My sister was helpful; Peter (husband) is helpful. Having a confidant to talk to was the best.

In your mind, is formal training essential?It gives you a community. I never felt it could really teach me anything but I could learn technical things. Technical things are helpful when you are making things. Every once in a while you meet somebody brilliant – Robert Arnison. All you need is someone to believe in you and technical skills. There are some things you just have to learn about materials, but it isn’t anything you have to go to school to learn it, but now that’s where we send people to learn it. Now with all the digital stuff there is a lot of technical learning to do. That’s where it’s helpful.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Be seen. Take advantage of opportunities to come along. Get your work out there, at whatever venue: online, in galleries…just be seen and don’t pass up an opportunity that you want. I never really sought out opportunities that I wanted, but never gave up opportunities that I wanted. Believe in yourself. If you don’t have to do it, then there are other ways to live your life. It has to be internal. Don’t judge yourself. It’s the only way you can get past your inhibitions. Try to be constructive and stay positive!

Artists for the most part are not constructed to be positive.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?Partially, but you have to be ready for it. You have to do a lot of work to seize that opportunity.

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