We close out our Atelier 32 artist series with Shelby Meyerhoff. Shelby’s series Paper Playroom is her newest work created during the pandemic, and now on the walls during the Griffin’s Atelier 32 exhibition. We are thrilled to have Shelby as a member of our Griffin artist community showcasing her work here at the Atelier. We are also pleased to announce her upcoming exhibition in October at our satellite venue, Griffin @ WinCam. Her Zoomorphics exhibition will open on September 28th and run through November 5th, 2020. We talked to this prolific multidisciplinary artist about Paper Playroom and how the Atelier is an incubator for creativity.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Boston, I started taking care of my toddler daughter Moxie for much of the workday. Before COVID, my artistic practice had been to paint intricate designs on my own face and body, and then photograph myself. The whole process required hours of uninterrupted time. It had been my plan to do a new face and body painting series over the course of the spring Atelier. But with Moxie by my side, I knew I’d need to find a different way of making art.
One afternoon, we painted with washable paints and cheap printer paper, which crumpled as it dried. Looking at the peaks and valleys, illuminated by the sunlight streaming into the playroom, I was inspired to create sculptures out of ordinary paper products.
I took this photograph, “A Song to the Wind,” early in the semester. I was struck by the liveliness of this image, and the way the paper bag looked almost like a classical sculptural medium. Seeing this piqued my curiosity about the possibilities of paper.
Over the weeks that followed, I experimented with other ways of photographing the sculptures I was making. In particular, I tried backgrounds with loud patterns and bold colors, which were speaking to me at the time, but didn’t ultimately work well for this series.
Towards the end of the program, I circled back to the approach shown in “A Song to the Wind,” limiting the backgrounds for the series to blacks and greys. With fewer competing elements, the emphasis of the images was on light and form. It was a simple and elegant approach, but sometimes those can be the most daunting to undertake. I don’t think I would have arrived there without the encouragement of our instructor Meg Birnbaum and our Atelier group, who gave thoughtful feedback on every iteration of this project.
How has Atelier helped you hone your vision as an artist?
The Atelier was the perfect space to experiment with different ideas for how the project could go. Meg gave excellent feedback at every step in the process – not only during the regular class meetings, but also throughout the summer as further questions arose.
I was also blown away by the talent and experience of my classmates. Seeing their weekly submissions made me want to bring my very best work to class. And every week they were able to identify what was working well in my photographs and where I needed to improve, always in the spirit of helping me make the series stronger.
I felt safe bringing experimental work to class, but at the same time, I moved faster towards a completed series than I would have expected, because of the quality of our weekly conversations.
Tell us what is next for you creatively.
I’m looking forward to finding out! One of the strengths of the Atelier program is that it takes students all the way through the lifecycle of a project: trying out various possibilities, honing the work into a series and developing the series further, and then producing, marketing, and showing the work. Now that our show is up, I’m excited to begin experimenting again this fall.
I’ll start by picking up paper again, folding and twisting, and seeing where that leads. I’m also interested in doing more painting. And I’m curious if I can find a successful way to combine painting, sculpture, and photography in a new body of work.
At the same time, this fall also marks the culmination of my series of photographs created through face and body painting. The solo show for my Zoomorphics series is opening at the Griffin’s WinCAM gallery on September 28. I am thrilled about the opportunity to show and discuss that work, and it will be all the more fun to do so while in the midst of creating something new.
Join us on October 1st at 7pm Eastern for an engaging conversation with Shelby about creativity and Zoomorphics.
About Shelby Meyerhoff –
Shelby Meyerhoff is a multidisciplinary artist based in the Boston area. She works with a variety of media, including photography, painting, sculpture, and body art, often combining multiple techniques to create her images. Meyerhoff’s work has been exhibited at venues across the country, including the Griffin Museum of Photography (MA), the Mosesian Center for the Arts (MA), the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (GA), and the LH Horton Jr. Gallery at San Joaquin Delta College (CA). Her Zoomorphics series has also been featured in UU World, the national magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
She has studied visual arts at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the New England School of Photography, and MassArt. Before becoming a fine artist, Meyerhoff worked in nonprofit communications, promoting environmental initiatives.