Having survived life-altering circumstances, Sheri Hope found freedom in her art.
By McKenzie Henningsen, Photos courtesy of Sheri Hope
It all started with a couple of screws and a glob of paint. After leaving a full-time office job working in graphic design, artist Sheri Hope taught herself to paint using unconventional materials. For Hope, the switch from digital artwork to a physical medium wasn’t an easy one.
“All of a sudden, I had no control,” Hope says. “I didn’t know how to paint; I just liked it. Didn’t have the control that I had with graphic design, because when you’re on the computer, everything can be perfect.”
Struggling with traditional paint brushes, Hope began using screws to apply paint.
“I felt like [the brushes]expected perfection, and I didn’t know how to do that. So I went the extreme opposite of perfection. I went into chaos.”
Since beginning sheriHOPEart over six years ago, Hope has developed other unique techniques, including painting on the back of canvases and incorporating unconventional materials in her work.
“[Painting on the back] gives it depth, dimension and interest,” Hope says. “I like to do things differently in my art. Can’t follow the rules of traditional art. I say that I’m an engineer artist because I don’t like to do the same thing over and over. I used to get upset if I made a mistake, and then I realized that the mistakes are where we learn. Now the ‘oops’ are my favorite parts.”
Coming Out of the Dark
Following a divorce and her children moving away for college, Hope moved to Austin. Struggling to find housing and a community to lean on during the COVID-19 pandemic, she became homeless and had to sleep in her car. Her recent series, shatteredHOPE, reflects the emotions she felt during this period of time. To create the works, she smashes glass bottles and applies the pieces to her paintings.
“When I hit [the glass]with the hammer, I’m empowered,” she says. “I say that there’s beauty within the brokenness, which is kind of like life. We’ve all been broken a few times. When you’re down there, just know that it’s not forever. You’ll come out of it. [The brokenness] is where the lessons are learned and the wisdom is gained.”
While she was homeless and new to Austin, Hope sold her artwork on South Congress out of her van, The sheriHOPE Mobile. Through the long process of selling her work on the side of the road, Hope learned to value her own struggle.
Hope is Real
“You just don’t ever give up,” she says. “I learned how to sell my art and I became successful. I’ve never worked that hard in my life. I’ve made a life through art, and people come up to me; we talk, we connect, we cry, we laugh. I knew no one, so the incredible kindness that I received from local Austinites, tourists and the homeless community was overwhelming and life- changing. I’m not the same as I was before. Hope is real.
“Viewing art, opening up your imagination, opens up space in your heart,” she continues. “It allows you to process emotion, which is what I’m doing when I’m creating art. It takes some time in my art to see the things that are there, because when I’m creating my art, I get lost in it. In order for you to fully appreciate it, you have to spend some time and take a second look.”
Creating art is what empowers Hope to look toward the future, but her vulnerability is what keeps her audience coming back.
“I think what makes [my art]unique is the abandon that I use. It’s chaos, like nature. I like to combine chaos and make it cohesive. I put my crazy out there for everyone to see, so it’s relatable. It puts things out there like emotion. That is relatable and those are things that we’re not supposed to talk about. But I talk about it, and I put it out there. It’s something people could imagine they could create.”