It was not until after Tacoma artist Selinda Sheridan had obtained a doctoral degree from Cornell University in Chinese literature that she took up sumi-e (Chinese brush painting) and found her true vocation. After all her academic studies it was a single class in sumi that launched Sheridan on a trajectory that would lead her to become a master of the medium as well as the current president of Puget Sound Sumi Artists.
Along the way Sheridan spent four years as the director of the art center at Nativity House, a daytime shelter where homeless can get a meal, clothing and other help. The art room is a sanctuary where homeless individuals have a space and the materials to nurture their own creative impulses, a function more vital than some may think.
Nativity Houses' drop-in artists often left unused paints and inks on their pallets and, unwilling to let any of it go to waste, Sheridan would blot it up with pieces of paper. She then used these papers with their random blobs of ink and smudges of paint as the basis for a series of intimate and often intricate little compositions. These works have been gathered into an art installation called “Contour Intervals” that is currently on display at the Dome District gallery simply known as Mineral. A contour interval is the change in elevation represented by the space in-between two concentric “rings” on a topographic map. It may represent either a rise or a decrease in elevation. The term is pregnant with symbolic meaning relating to music, painting and conversation.
Each playing card-sized painting is covered in a plastic sleeve and pinned to the gallery wall. In some, smudges of color are embellished with intricate line work to create little seaside landscapes. Others are dominated by thick, black blobs of ink from which spidery lines emanate. There are brassy sunsets and there are designs embedded with shapes of scintillating crimson. Some suggest the lines on a topographic map.
Each of these little vignettes (the show started with 100 of them) sells for $10. All of the proceeds go to Nativity House’s art program.
In addition, a number of Sheridan's framed sumi ink masterpieces are on display as is a selection Sheridan's paper sculptures. The latter are done using ink paintings that are wadded or rolled scroll-like. These delicate forms are charmingly subtle and as delicate as bird nests.
“Contour Intervals” runs through March 26 at Mineral. The gallery is located at 301 Puyallup Ave. in Tacoma's Dome District. For more information call (253) 250-7745.