Congratulations to Katherine Sherwood, who will be receiving an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, during their 2020 commencement address! Alongside artists Mel Chin, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell and Gerald Williams, Sherwood will be recognized for her work addressing intersectionality, feminism, and art history through the lens of disability.
Throughout her career, Sherwood has used art as an extension of her activism, calling for change by disrupting the art historical canon. In her practice, she references and reworks significant artworks to address contemporary issues and her personal experience with disability. This past October, she gave two lectures at the SAIC, discussing her artwork and her activism with the Yelling Clinic, an artist collective for disability awareness, which she co-founded in 2008. Speaking on her activism, she said “When 80 percent of disabled people live in developing countries, many in poverty, it seemed [essential] to reframe what has largely been a western understanding of what it means to be disabled…”
Sherwood’s painting process is varied: she draws content from many sources, and often incorporates collage, while her recent work is painted on the backs of reproductions of classical paintings. Of her series of Venuses, in which she appropriates classical odalisques by artists such as Manet and Goya, she says, “my intention was to wrestle them away from their lily white original depiction and to make them all disabled and to proudly, proudly wear that.” In a related series of Brain Flowers, images of her own brain are incorporated into Dutch and Post-impressionist still-life paintings as a nuanced symbol for overcoming adversity. She explained, “I started using images from my brain as a joyous statement about ’Hey, I lived to tell you this.’”
Sherwood will receive her honorary degree at the commencement ceremony, which will take place remotely on Saturday, May 16th.
Watch Sherwood's full talk at the Disability and Learning Resource Center, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, October 2019: