Bringing contemporary Southwest to the Intermountain West
February 21, 2012
Although contemporary Southwest painter Sherri Belassen grew up with creative parents, she was going to be a professional athlete.
In 1984, she got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Missouri for high jump, but found herself a year later at Indiana University Bloomington getting her degree in painting.
"It’s funny, but I’ve always been a visual person," Belassen said during a telephone interview with The Park Record while attending one of her children’s soccer game in Phoenix, Ariz. "I love architecture and design and color and as a kid, I would see my mom paint a little bit. She didn’t do anything professional, but I would see her do some art, and my dad was always busy making airplanes or refinishing sports cars.
"The fiberglass smell and the scent of the paints and all those mineral spirits got locked into my psyche at an early age, so when I started painting and smelled the paints, it became like home, you know what I mean? It was comforting," she said.
The J GO Gallery will host a free reception for Belassen during the Park City Gallery Association Gallery Stroll on Friday, Feb. 24, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Belassen’s art reflects her Southwest base, although it took a while for her to develop her style.
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"I never thought my paintings would be interesting," she said with a laugh. "I’m from the Midwest, but my dad would always wear a cowboy hat and that would embarrass me. Thinking about all that, the West may have been imprinted on my mind to do something within that theme."
While Belassen was in college, her parents moved to Arizona, so after she graduated, she joined them.
"At that time, I considered myself an abstract painter, although I had done some figurative works, too, but I didn’t want to paint cowboys and become stereotyped in the whole western art scene," she said.
That changed when an art-dealer friend asked her to paint a horse.
"The last time I painted a horse was when I was in high school and it looked like a donkey, so I never wanted to paint a horse again, but I said, ‘OK, I’ll do a horse again,’" Belassen said with another laugh. "I said I’d do it as long as I can do it in my own way."
Being in control of her work has always been important to Belassen, even from when she was in college.
"I was once nominated to do a program at Yale," she said. "I wasn’t chosen, but my studio mate was, but she had to do what people told her to paint and had to do it after they told her what was right and what was wrong, and that was something I didn’t want to have to deal with, and not having to do what others told me to do, helped me find my own voice in art."
Since her style has evolved throughout the last 22 years, Belassen, also a single mother, knows it will continue to change in the future.
"I don’t know where I’ll be later, but I know I’ll still be painting," she said. "I don’t see myself retiring, but still being active and striving to be better.
"I do see myself being happy and seeing my kids go through college," she said.
Belassen’s children, both in their teens, the only people who can tell Belassen how to improve her art, she said with another laugh.
"At first they didn’t understand what I was doing, and didn’t like anything I did," she said. "They would come to the studio and ask me why a person was pear shaped, or they would tell me that I needed to add more orange or other colors into a piece. The funny thing is sometimes I’ll do what they say and realize they were right."
Belassen will have between 15 and 20 works on exhibit at J GO Gallery and is looking forward to coming back to Park City to see the gallery’s owner Jude Grenny.
"Jude first contacted me when she was owner of the Phoenix Gallery out there in Park City, which I thought was funny, because I was living in Phoenix," Belassen said. "She liked my work, and I found it to be a nice fit with her gallery. She’s a great gal and when we’re together, we’re like peas and carrots, running around."
The J GO Gallery, 408 Main St., will host an opening reception for artist Sherrie Belassen on Friday, Feb. 24, during the Park City Gallery Association’s Gallery Stroll from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. The event is open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.sherribelassen.com and http://www.jgogallery.com