South Hill artist Tom Sherwood exhibits Renaissance-style art

Longtime Bellingham artist Tom Sherwood say the exhibit featuring his work, opening Saturday, March 7, at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher, was instigated by artists, well-meaning friends, and collectors of his work.

One of his admirers is Patricia Leach, the museum’s executive director.

“I first met Tom and his wife, Dorothy, in their home several years ago,” she says. “We spent the better part of an afternoon looking at Tom’s paintings and drawings. It was fascinating to hear Tom speak about their development and the thought process behind them; I found it remarkable that a single painting could take several years to complete.”

Among the prints, paintings, sculptures and drawings that will be displayed in the show, which runs through June 7, are nine egg-tempera and gold-leaf-on-panel paintings, woodcuts, pencil-on paper and pencil-on-vellum pieces, and the 1985 bronze sculpture, “The Assistants,” which won the Barrett-Colea Foundry Prize at the National Sculpture Society in New York City.

Sherwood’s work interprets the beauty of the human form and the natural environment in exquisite detail. His mastery of materials and techniques that define Renaissance art – the egg-tempera and gold-leaf on wood panel, perspective and anatomy – elevates the work to a spiritual dimension.

In his paintings, drawings, and woodblock prints, Sherwood integrates a rich variety of inspirations: poetry, garden landscapes, mythology, architecture and mathematics.

“My ‘creative process’ is halting, protracted and subject to a good deal of distraction,” he says. “I am inspired by the human body and by the tragic failure and self-aggrandizement of the human enterprise.”

Based in Bellingham since 1970, when he became assistant professor of interdisciplinary arts at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, the South Hill artist has traveled and taught art at colleges and universities in the United States and China.

“Tom Sherwood: A Golden Perspective” explores one distinct body of the artist’s work since 1992, when he began focusing full time on his artistic productions.

Sherwood’s life and work have touched many prominent Washington artists, including Susan Bennerstrom, Tom Wood, Ann Morris and John Cole.

Sherwood says the Lucia Douglas Gallery in Fairhaven has exhibited his work from time to time, but he admits he rarely shows things except at gallery director’s Linda Gardner’s invitation.

Last year, the Gage Academy in Seattle mounted a very different and somewhat smaller exhibition of his work, he says, and hosted a couple evenings of lecture on the problems of drawing. That exhibit was curated by well-known Seattle sculptor and gallery owner John Sisko.

But, as Thomas Handley writes in the exhibition catalog, much of Sherwood’s art “has never been given the audience it deserves.”

And, admits Sherwood, “the exhibition now being mounted at the Lightcatcher will probably be the only opportunity for a somewhat wider public to see the things I have attempted.”

The Whatcom Museum Advocates host a free tour of the exhibition with Sherwood and Wood during a lunch-hour program at 11:30 a.m. May 14, and the Lightcatcher will be open during the April 3 Downtown Art Walk.

For more on Sherwood, see a 2012 video made by fellow Bellingham artist Lanny Little, available on YouTube by searching Tom Sherwood Lanny Little.