JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER
An Interview with Sondra Sherman on Her Most Recent Body of Work, Found Subjects
Flipping through the pages of Sondra Sherman’s catalog for her most recent body of work, Found Subjects, readers are greeted by a wide variety of jewelry, nestled into the pages of books taken from Sherman’s personal library. Each piece was made in response to the book in which it lives. The formal language of the work varies widely, as the inspiration for each work was a response to the corresponding book’s title and visual cues. Like finding scribbled notes in the margins of a book, these pieces of jewelry feel unexpected and deeply personal. The jewelry is often disarmingly simple, with beautiful overlapping details that unite each piece with the book in which it lies. In order to accommodate the jewelry, pages of the books have been altered; written content has been cored from the original object and replaced with a physical, visual content that is subtle, pliable, and enticing. When leafing through the catalog for the 2011 show Found Subjects at Sienna Patti, one has the feeling of unwrapping a gift. The catalog turns the work into a Russian nesting doll: each piece of jewelry lives within a book, which is in turn presented inside the catalog, another book.
Found Subjects is an ongoing series of work shown most recently at the Hunterdon Art Museum in the spring of 2014. I had the chance to discuss the catalog and the body of work it represents with Sondra by email.
Sections of Sondra’s reflective catalog essay  have been inserted in the interview. These sections have been indicated with italics.
Found Subjects, Sondra Sherman, 2014, Hunterdon Art MuseumCéline Browning: What kind of experience were you trying to craft for your viewers in Found Subjects?
Sondra Sherman: In exhibition, the books are presented on whitewashed plywood quasi library lecterns tailored to their individual size and haphazardly arranged in the space. The presentation allows the pieces to borrow authority from each other and from both the status and misunderstanding of installation as a format.
The table is an integral part of each piece and the concept of the series as an exhibition. The tables and books complete each piece as a contemplative object when not being worn and propose an expanded context for interpretation: one that is distinctive from conventional jewelry contexts, but does not completely disown the personal/domestic framework by relying solely on the white pedestal of the art gallery. The combination brings in multiple contexts—as jewelry, books, quasi furniture, quasi library lecterns, and quasi pedestals, they refer to personal and domestic spaces, and the imaginary worlds of authors, readers, and artworks.
But it is endearing. It resembles a room full of people milling about. They are all wearing the same uniform on a variety of body types. Some are more matronly, some a bit frail, and others sturdily scientific. A sense of sociability develops, first suggested by the tables as figures themselves, the imagination of a figure standing at the table, and ultimately, that figure is you—surrounded by some quiet characters with whom you might have a conversation…READ MORE