We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheryl Zacharia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheryl, what role has risk played in your life or career?
One could say that trying to make a living as an artist is a risk in and of itself. But I think most artists feel compelled and love to create…it’s not really a choice. I started out as a painting major, but after only 3 semesters, dropped out of college and moved to New York City with $75 and no job or permanent place to live. I realized songwriting, which I had been doing since childhood, and performing was really what I wanted to do. I had all kinds of crazy jobs, mostly working in restaurants to support this endeavor. In a short time I bought a beautiful new guitar and an old beat up piano. I started doing open mic nights and in time put bands together and performed for 15 years in the downtown club circuit. This was never a way to make money, in fact it generally cost me money. But I was determined to get a record deal and spent all my days when I was not at work writing and practicing. During this time I made many demo tapes and had many gigs. I worked 3 nights a week just to make enough money to survive and had all the rest of my time to write, practice, and perform. At age 35 when the record deal I dreamed of had not come to fruition, I decided to try other things. That’s when a took a pottery class. I fell in love with working in clay and after about five years started selling my work. Nothing big initially, but it gave me the impetus to try to have a career at it. After some years, I was hired to teach at Greenwich House Pottery, finally I had a job in my field and could also do my work.
It has been an upward struggle… starting at a later age and not having the networking and background of going to art school. Slowly I started exhibiting my work and finally got into my dream Gallery, Jane Sauer in Santa Fe. After a year or so of great success with Shows and sales, I made the spontaneous decision to leave New York, my New York apartment…now that’s a risk!, and moved to Santa Fe. I didn’t know anyone except for the few people that worked at the Gallery. Now I have a home studio and can devote my life full time to making art. Though it was a culture shock, I don’t regret it. It is a beautiful and inspiring place and I am surrounded by art and creative and interesting people. Most of all it allows me to make art full time. Now my only risk is that I make what I want. I am continuously developing new series of work which keeps it fresh and interesting for myself, and hope that others like it. Making work day after day, not really knowing if it will sell is the life of most artists, that is a gamble.
As I look back on my life, I never felt like a big risk taker, tho others have commented that I am. For me it just all came naturally.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets me apart from many others is that I am very much a self-taught artist with a lot of different areas of creativity that have contributed to my maturity as an artist. It continues to be an uphill struggle, especially not having gone the normal route of a college education and mentorship. I do not think my way is the better way but it is the path I took. I would say that patience and tenacity is what brings me to where I am now. I have learned that hard work and perseverance are the keys to having success no matter what your journey is. I believe in generosity as I have been fortunate to have that in my life. Many people have taken chances on me without the expected background many have. Love what you do and do it with abandon and that will lead to fulfillment. This is not to say that I don’t struggle and get frustrated as I think most artists do. I sometimes feel my work is not as appreciated as I would like it to be. I remind myself often that I am getting to do some thing I love which is a great privilege many do not have.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
What I love most about Santa Fe is that it’s like a small town with big town amenities. It’s such a culturally interesting area as well as the surrounding beauty. Santa Fe has the second biggest art market in the country second to NYC. I would always visit Canyon Road. Gallery, after gallery all which were once old Adobe homes. It reeks of old world charm and beauty. The gallery that represents me, Kay Contemporary Art is in one of the oldest buildings, over 100 years. Then lunch or tea at the Tea Room down near the end. Then there’s the Railyard district with more loft like beautiful open gallery spaces, great shops and 2 days a week an amazing Farmers Market rated one of the top 10 in the country. Also great shops and restaurants.
Another day might be a walk around the plaza area, also more gallerys, fantastic shops and restaurants and of course several Museums including the NM Museum of Art, The History Museum, The Georgia Okeefe Museum., and, The Contemporary Native American Museum with the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis Assisi right across the street. During the right weekend of summer u might also get to attend Indian or Spanish Market.
Then there’s Museum Hill with the amazing Folk Art Museum and the Native American Museum and the Wheelwright. If you are there 2nd weekend of July there is Folk Art Market.. an amazing event with craft artists from all over the world
I also love a day in Abiquiu to see Plaza Blanca, Ghost Ranch ,Georgia Okeefes Home and the beautiful Pedernal mountain.
Less than an hour out of Santa Fe there are numerous Native Pueblos and National Monuments to visit. My personal favorite Monument is Tent Rocks. But there really are too many to name! And don’t forget to look up at the sky!! A beautiful sunset, sunrise or just the bluest skys ever to feast your eyes on.
So far as the nightlife, there are wonderful restaurants, The Lensic theater which has an array of live Performances including the ballet, jazz festival, classical music etc. In Summer you can go to the beautiful Santa Fe Opera which is World renowned. My personal favorite nightlife thing to do is a Flamenco show. There are several great venues and some of the top Flamenco performers in the country live here. So much to do so little time!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am grateful for the support of my Gallery representation, past and present… Jane Sauer, Karla Winterowd of Kay Contemporary Art, William Havu Gallery, Maureen Watson of Watson MacRae Gallery and Reid Sikes of Caza Sikes Gallery I am also grateful to teachers, family and friends that have shown me loving support through the years.
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First Photo with me in it was taken by Karla Winterowd