Open Frequency 2009: Sally Sheinman selected by Sanna Moore

Open Frequency 2009: Sally Sheinman selected by Sanna Moore Sally Sheinman, ARTNAOS, 2007. Painted MDF, acrylic paint, perspex. 240cm x 165cm x 205cm. Credit: Cat Stevens

Sanna Moore profiles the work of Sally Sheinman

Sally Sheinman is interested in human nature and the way people react to and interact with visual art. Her projects in recent years have invited the public to take part in her work, largely relying on their interaction to make the project complete.

Trained as a painter, there is always a painting element to every idea she embarks on, though sometimes it becomes eclipsed by the interactive nature of her work. Sheinman begins each project with the production of a hand made multiple, a cathartic process of repetitive painting which she puts herself through - almost as a justification for the idea.

In 2005, The Wishing Ceremony opened at the Art & Design Gallery, University of Hertfordshire. Sheinman created six brightly-coloured booths (each similar in size and scale to a telephone booth) which visitors were invited to step inside, write a wish on a post-it note and then stick it up inside the booth for the visitors who followed to read. All wishes were made anonymously and their variety and depth was overwhelming. Each booth had a number of wishing tokens, hand-painted and hung in the hollows within their walls. One thousand wishing tokens were created in total, each one different from the next. Every wish left inside the booths was recorded by the artist, as a testament to the project.

The Wishing Ceremony was the first interactive project to be exhibited outside the gallery space at six very different locations in Leicester: an Islamic centre, a girls’ school, a pre-school, an office building, a creative industries centre and a sports centre. In 2007, Sheinman continued this idea with ARTNAOS which toured to six different hospitals across the UK. Naos means ‘the inner portion of a Greek temple, enclosed within walls and surrounded by colonnaded porticoes.’ The booth provided a sanctuary, a quiet contemplative place, for one person at a time to enter and express their worries in writing, or to just post them outside the booth. She crafted a series of large hand-painted ‘worry’ beads to accompany the project, continuing with her process of making a multiple for each project.

Keen to continue working outside the gallery, Sheinman envisaged a project in a busy shopping centre where she would encounter a large cross section of the public. In 2008 this idea was realised with ARTDNA in the Arndale Centre, Eastbourne, part of a series of off-site projects commissioned by Towner. The project involved a larger-scale booth where three or four people could go inside at the same time. The public were invited to leave a fact about their family history, written on cards and slotted into cardholders inside and outside the booth. The responses were immediate and overwhelming, from funny to overtly personal, totalling over four thousand during a two-week period. The booth was accompanied by more than 22,000 tiny line drawings representing DNA strands mounted in a perspex frame.

A strong spiritual element is ever present in Sheinman’s work originating from her Catholic upbringing which in later life diffused into a spirituality which takes faith and inspiration from people. Her practice is a response to society and the world that we live in, often reacting against the negativity that we are bombarded with in the media. Her projects focus on hope and aspiration, contemplation and time. Her interactive work provides a place for people to stop and think for a few minutes within their busy day and to share thoughts with others unknown to them. She provides a space and an opportunity to think and interact which is often a luxury these days.

Sanna Moore, August 2009

View Sally Sheinman's profile >

Artist's biography

Sally Sheinman is an American artist who studied at the State University of New York at Albany and undertook postgraduate studies at Hunter College, New York City where her tutors included Tony Smith and Robert Morris.

Sally has exhibited widely throughout Britain and has produced touring projects and public commissions (including works for ACE, BBC and NHS) and her work has been featured on Radio 4 Women’s Hour and PM. Selected exhibitions and projects include Count Me, a touring exhibition to East Midlands Airport, The Richard Attenborough Centre and Sudbury Hall & the Museum of Childhood (2008), ARTDNA, a commission for Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (2008), ARTNAOS, an interactive touring exhibition to five hospitals in London and Birmingham and The Collection in Lincoln (2007), ARTKACINA, a commission for firstsite @ The Minories Art Gallery Colchester (2006), ARTBAWEDJIGEWIN, a commission for BBC Birmingham, Mailbox (2006), Announcements, a commission for South and East Belfast Trust (2005) and Wishing Ceremony, an interactive touring exhibition in association with the University of Hertfordshire (2004-5).

Sally has lived in Britain for the last 25 years and is currently working in Northampton. 

About Sanna Moore

Sanna Moore is Exhibitions Curator at Towner (Eastbourne), a new visual arts centre designed by Rick Mather Architects opening in April 2009.

From 2001 - 2007 she was Curator & Gallery Administrator at the University of Hertfordshire Galleries, which comprises of two spaces - the Art & Design Gallery (Hatfield) and the Margaret Harvey Gallery (St Albans).

Moore has completed a BA (Hons) in History of Art and Film Studies at Middlesex University and a MA in Gallery Studies from the University of Essex. Between 1997 - 2001 she worked in a number of London galleries, including South London Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Whitechapel Art Gallery- where she started as a volunteer and graduated to paid work. She also worked for a short time in commercial galleries but was never serious about a career in the commercial art world.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.