A few years ago I experienced an artist block lasting a painful nine months. It was terrifying, stultifying, long, and demoralizing. It seemed as if my one recourse to sanity had evaporated. I was of the mind that I wanted to change my art practice having felt I had exhausted the abstract paintings that I had done for many years. I had no idea of what I wanted to do instead. One morning in a quiet reverie upon awakening I had a vision of a diptych with brains as heads with a long skirt attached. It seemed silly and off-track but since I had nothing else to go by I welcomed it. The Healers of the Yelling Clinic series came out of it - twelve life-size polyptych paintings with cloth skirts or pants attached. I came to realize I was making/incarnating clinicians to populate the Yelling Clinic.
The Yelling Clinic was conceived in the spring of 2008 by a group of four artists, each of whom had an interest in the intersections between war and disability. Our goal was to raise awareness about the human costs of war and war pollution around the globe, while at the same time facilitating positive and empowered discourses through which war disabilities can be viewed. The Yelling Clinic was born out of a desire to mix artistic practice with community outreach, art instruction, and activism. It is not a bricks-and-mortar institution, but I am committed to the interior design of the imaginary space.
Of late I have been working on a series of large-scale Venuses or Brain Heads that also occupy the space of the Yelling Clinic. They are reclining disabled female nudes modelled on iconic western paintings. Their fanciful heads, often crowned with tiaras, are composed of brain imagery from the 16th to the 21st century. Painted on the reverse of antique, linen-backed art historical prints, they feature catalog numbers and the names of canonical Western artists. The Venuses embody the beauty, dignity and pride of disabled women everywhere.
- Katherine Sherwood
Katherine Sherwood’s mixed-media paintings investigate essential aspects of art, medicine, and disabilities. Her works juxtapose abstracted medical images, such as cerebral angiograms of the artist’s brain, with fluid renderings of ancient patterns; the paintings thus explore and reveal, with a most unusual palette, the strange nature of our time and current visual culture. Brain Heads is a series of paintings of reclining disabled female nudes modeled on iconic western paintings. Their fanciful heads, often crowned with tiaras, are composed of brain imagery from the 16th to the 21st century. Painted on the reverse of antique, linen-backed art historical prints, they feature catalog numbers and the names of canonical Western artists. The female image embodies the beauty, dignity and pride of disabled women everywhere.
Katherine Sherwood received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the recipient of a the Wynn Newhouse Award, Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, Guggenheim Fellowship Award, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant, UC Bridging Grant, Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant, UC Humanities Research Grant, Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant and an NEA Artist Fellowship.. Her work has been included in the Whitney Biennial 2000, The Smithsonian Museum and The National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, Yerba Buena Center, SF, Kemper Museum of Art, St. Louis. Galleries include Paule Anglim, SF, George Hemphill, DC, Michael Kohn, LA, Cole Pratt, New Orleans, D.C. Moore, NYC. Sherwood is a professor emerita at UC Berkeley in the Art Department and the Disability Studies Program.
She is the artist-in-residence at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and a founding member of “The Yelling Clinic” an artist group focused on the intersections between war and disability. Sherwood resides in Rodeo, CA.