Michael Sherrill Retrospective

June 28, 2019–January 5, 2020

Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
Untitled - 2005.34 - 69173
Michael Sherrill, Yellowstone Rhododendron, 2000, porcelain, glaze, and steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum

In his delicately rendered sculptures in clay, glass, and metal, Michael Sherrill seeks to elicit a sense of wonder from viewers, and to make them see the natural world anew. Sherrill’s most recent work reveals his naturalist’s sensitivity to botanical wonders, especially those outside his studio in the mountains of North Carolina. His floral forms have the allure of Martin Johnson Heade’s passion flower and orchid paintings and the botanical engravings of John James Audubon, aligning his work with a long history of a reverence for nature in American art.

This retrospective, organized by The Mint Museum, illustrates the artist’s evolution over his more than forty-year career. The presentation at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery includes more than seventy-five objects, from Sherrill’s earliest teapots and functional clay vessels to his mixed media sculptures inspired by nature, such as Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca) and Yellowstone Rhododendron.

Primarily a self-taught artist, Sherrill moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to the Western North Carolina mountains in 1974. His early influences came from the North Carolina folk pottery tradition and the community surrounding Penland School of Crafts, where he is a frequent instructor, and the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. Sherrill’s mature style marries his intimate observation of the natural world with his own psychology, imbuing the work with a powerful emotional layer. Sherrill’s exceptional skill that allows him to seamlessly incorporate iron, bronze, and flameworked glass into his compositions is based in his innovative approach to using tools, technology, and his keen sense of materials to achieve what he calls his “natural narratives.”

After its presentation at the Renwick Gallery, the exhibition will travel to the Arizona State University Art Museum in 2020.


The accompanying catalogue includes essays by Ezra Shales, professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design; and Marilyn Zapf, guest curator for the exhibition and assistant director and curator at The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design in Asheville, North Carolina. It will be available for purchase ($40) in the museum store.

Public Programs


Michael Sherrill Retrospective is organized by The Mint Museum. Funding for the exhibition catalogue and national tour provided by the Windgate Foundation. The presentation at the Renwick Gallery is made possible by the James Renwick Alliance.

The Windgate logo in yellow, green, and blue.