Masters: Sherri Smith

Masters: Sherri Smith

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Sherri Smith Portrait

Photo: Brian Kelly

What’s evident in Sherri Smith’s recent weavings is a lifelong love of the sciences – especially hard sciences such as physics and astronomy. Her strip-woven work pulls from photographs and data collected by NASA scientists. The master weaver and professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design acknowledges she probably “had a near-miss with being a scientist.”

But even that oversimplifies her career, which took off just two years after she earned an MFA in weaving and textile design at Cranbrook when one of her pieces was included in a groundbreaking exhibition. That 1969 show – “Wall Hangings” at the Museum of Modern Art – is credited with establishing fiber as an art form.

Smith cites a clear pattern in her journey as an artist: She hits on a theme – say, her plaited, 3D pieces of the 1970s – which she plays out to its conclusion. Then she must “flounder” while she finds her next direction – an interim she describes as “both exciting and scary.” Finally, she finds new footing, and the cycle starts again.

At the heart of this dynamic is a very personal vision. “I don’t worry about what anyone is going to think about my work except me,” she says.