Invitation Essay for Arrangements Show at Cheryl Pelavin Fine Art, NYC, 2003

Mysterious, meticulous in its craftsmanship and magical in its transformation of ordinary, unlikely materials, Donna Sharrett's art defies easy classification. Her "Arrangements," like her earlier "Mementos," are needlework constructions that are part textile and part sculpture-eloquent essays in geometric abstraction that recall artifacts from folk or religious rituals.

Deeply moved by the death several years ago of her mother, from whom the artist had learned traditional stitching techniques, Sharrett sought, through art, to honor and memorialize loved ones. Inspired by the Victorian-era memento mori and steeped in research about various cultures' customs and rituals of remembrance, Sharrett brought together hand-stitching and such materials as dried rose petals, artificial hair and beads to create her original, ornate works. They speak with intriguing ambiguity in the universal language of elegant pattern and abstract form. Viewers of varied ages and backgrounds have responded to the emotional energy and meditative character of Sharrett's art, and to the inescapable touch of the artist's hand that is visible in each labor-intensive piece.

Sharrett's new "Arrangements," set against subtly colored grounds of real dirt, honor her brother Scot, a guitarist, whom she lost more that a year ago. They are titled after Scot's favorite songs or after songs that he had penned himself; little round beads from the ends of his guitar strings are stitched into these new works, as are friendship rings. These circular forms, like the shapes of Sharrett's compositions, help give these works their special textures and a sense of musical rhythm.

The cycle of life that emerges from and later returns to the earth, friendship, memory, ritual, longing and the rhythms that pulse through ordered abstract forms-these are some of the themes that Sharrett's work quietly but unmistakably evokes. Hers is an art that unveils its secrets with exquisite subtlety. It gives gracious form to an ineffable, enduring human spirit-and to a rush of timeless, wordless, restless messages from the heart.

Edward M. Gomez

Contributor to the New York Times and U.S. editor of Raw Vision

Text: © 2003 Edward M. Gomez
Artwork: © 2003 Donna Sharrett