Sheila has been a painter all her life. She went to Cooper Union Art School in New York, moved to North Carolina, raised four kids, taught art at Duke University, worked as a sign painter and house painter, wrote an advice column and until recently taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design where she developed a curriculum that weaves color theory into the practice of painting. Her studio is in her back yard, where she spends her days.
My paintings are stories: stories not in words, but in the language of paint. Transforming a two-dimensional surface into a three -dimensional world is a beautiful and mysterious process. I choose each subject because it calls up some fleeting and treasured memory, and by painting it, I can reclaim it and give presence to my past. I first do some drawings, figuring out what to include, what to simplify, how to get the space to be cohesive and believable. It’s always the color that is the sweet taste that makes me want to paint, but I have to wait, drawing in charcoal until I get the composition right. Then come the pastels, which are in themselves finished works; and if they hold further possibilities then I finally begin the painting, which I work on for a long time, often over years, till everything about it has a feeling of calm inevitability. There’s so much in these paintings: so take your time, look, absorb the light, the mood: these paintings have a subterranean menace which I don’t intend, but I recognize and welcome. They are stories of places, of light and darkness. My teachers are all the artists that I’ve loved. Writing them all down would fill a book, but standing in front of the wonderful Bonnards at the Phillips Collection is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s the way he structures his paintings in order to use color so gently and lovingly and freely, and of course there’s Matisse. I love Richard Diebenkorn’s surfaces, Rothko’s ephemeral power, Roy Lichtenstein’s mind, deKooning’s big landscape abstractions and Edward Hopper’s composition. I believe that there are unexplored paths that began with these painters, and every day I am faced with reconciling the contradictions of the abstract expressionists who were at the heart of my training and the great representational painters of the past and present.
b. 1939, New York, New York
Lives and works in Takoma Park, MD