In Memoriam:

Stuart Sherman (1946–2001)

Richard Foreman

Stuart Sherman was like no other artist I’ve ever known. A sweet and gentle man whose art was nevertheless honed with a rigor and discipline that was almost frightening in its iron-clad integrity. Because instead of being shaped by the hurricane winds of the world, the minute and pure crystals of Stuart’s art were able to proliferate in a thousand scattered locales–their diamond-like glitter being the manner in which such detailed miniaturization testified to a defiance of received opinion and accepted artistic styles.

Stuart entered into people’s lives with a smile and a giggle that seemed to be tumbling over itself in a welcoming gesture; his laughter was a hunger to understand life’s unrelenting rules. Stuart then turned into his hermetic games that seemed to break the rules of art–only because they were efforts to remain true to the syntax of wide awake consciousness–for which normal life and art have little patience, of course.

And to encounter this sweet human being was also to experience the inner demand to seriously engage the most serious of matters, because Stuart was always, behind his smile, inviting his friends to dig deeper into the secrets of art and mind. Stuart was in this sense unrelenting at the bone of his obsessions, as he pulled up a chair in the hopes that others would sit down and join him. And of course some did, and some did not.

I remember years ago, when after appearing in several of my plays, this shy young man decided to show me and Kate some of his early diagram-like renderings of the rhythms of his mind’s struggle with the flux of things. Then shortly afterwards, gentle and quiet Stuart suddenly dared to throw himself into a series of solo performances of similar mental notations. Performances of daring and delicate awkwardness, complexity that made no concessions to anything but Stuart’s iron will to understand how his own mental rhythms glued themselves to the world with which he collided every day. And the hum generated from those performances was both exhilarating and sad, demanding that a world exist which was not simply this world in which we all agree to live and function but a world equal to the love Stuart offered, a love disguised as the unending shuffling of those millions of tiny real-world objects Stuart kept combining and re-combining in front of our very eyes. A treasure trove to which Stuart was shyly offering us the key.

Millennium Film Journal No. 38 (Spring 2002): Winds From the East