If Sherri Martin can find it, she can turn it into art. She calls it repurposing, which is a modern term for something just about everybody used to do: find a new use for something old.
It begins, for Sherri, with found objects, which she usually finds at flea markets, garage sales, or estate sales that she believes she can turn into something else.
"They are things that — from an artist’s point of view — you can usually repurpose into something else: an animal, person, robot, collage, or whatever strikes your fancy," said Sherri, who, with her husband, Randy Martin, operates Flying Fish Gallery in Ben Wheeler. "For me, it’s usually an animal. A lot of times, there are no rules on animals, especially birds and fish because nature already makes them pretty weird looking. I can see beaks or feathers or tails or whatever in objects."
Sherri usually makers her art using wood or metal, sometimes with paper.
"You have that ‘thing’ inside of you, that creative thing that has to come out in some way. For some people, that’s music or writing or painting. For me, it’s making more-three-dimensional objects. I like to take a nothing and make it into a something," she said.
There’s a sense of exploration in the process.
"I never know where I’m going when I start. What I like the most is, if I have a piece of an old cut-up door, I will turn it in every direction possible until I start seeing the object coming out of the door. Once I have the initial feel, then I go for it: adding tails and eyes and feet, whatever direction I’m going."
Two of her favorite recent pieces are titled "Industrial Voodoo" and "Cuckoo on the Run."
"Industrial Voodoo" was made out of an old door covered in white, flaky paint.
"When I looked at it, I could see the shape of a face," Sherri said. "I added lots of old chains to it, and made it an interactive art piece because I added my own pieces of memorabilia and whoever bought it could add memorabilia from their life. There are so many chains that you could just add tons and tons of things throughout your life, from when you were a kid to something your own kid did."
The title came from the fact that Sherri likes to work with gears a lot, so it has an industrial metal edge to it and the old, rusty patinas of metal that’s been around a long time, perhaps tossed in the back of a truck or in the barn, or dug up from the dirt.
"Cuckoo on the Run" is part of ongoing, whimsical series of cuckoos that escaped from their clocks.
"They are always going to be running or hiding," she said. "It’s somewhat like escaping from something that had you all boxed in, so cuckoos on the run just means you’ve run away from something — anything you’re running away from, or any kind of box that has pigeonholed you as ‘this’ or ‘that’ kind of person. Everybody has something inside them they want to escape from or don’t want to be pigeonholed as."
Sherri is a self-taught artist.
"I had art classes in school but never really thought about going into it from a college type background," she said. "We got busy raising kids, but it’s always something I’ve dabbled in. As the kids got older and Randy got more into it, the more I got exposed to it and the more time I spent on art. It’s just the way our life is now."
The majority of the work at Flying Fish Gallery has been repurposed in one way or another, starting out as one thing and turned into something else: dirt turned to clay which the artist turned to a pot, a piece of wood from a dead tree turned to a vase, a cardboard box used as a canvas.
She loves being surrounded by so much art at the gallery, which she turns into a sort of single, gigantic piece of art itself, composed of many elements.
"It’s pretty much a dream come true. I hope I don’t become so used to it that I don’t still get a thrill out of it," she said. "I like when someone brings in something new or a new artist comes in and I get to see something new in that art. Every artist who’s come in here has opened me up to something new.
"I’m just always more drawn to people who make something out of nothing. That’s particularly what I like. It’s not any particular person or artists. It must come from some kind of pioneer stock in me or something — making something out of nothing appeals to me."