Cheryl Laemmle's art relies on memory, childhood recollections
and fairy tales as inspiration for its dream like imagery and
melancholy moods. Her paintings often include faceless figures,
allegorical animals, still lifes and
landscapes. Laemmle describes her work as symbolist
because she uses images to tell the story of her childhood and
its impact on her life as an adult.
One of Cheryl Laemmle's most successful series is
called the "birch-bark" paintings. The series began in the early
1980s during a three-month stay in the Adirondack Mountains, one
of her first opportunities to return to the country after moving
to New York. This visit reminded her of summers spent during her
childhood with her grandparents in Ishpeming, Michigan, near Lake
The paintings in the birch-bark series almost always
include a faceless figure made of the wood from a birch tree. The
birch-bark figure represents a kind of self-portrait. The figure
may also draw its origins from Laemmle's grandfather, who used to
carve toys for her and her sister from the birch that grew in the
forests around Ishpeming. The paintings have a feeling of nostalgia
and perhaps sadness in remembering these days past. There are no
features on the face of the figure, but the entire figure is scattered
with knothole "eyes" that are natural characteristics of birch bark
but also could symbolize inner sight.
In The Outsiders, the figure seems to be
supported or maybe trapped between two oversized bird-like forms--perhaps
a woodpecker and bluebird. Again a reference is made to Laemmle's
grandfather's hobby of carving bird decoys. After the birch paintings,
she began a new series of these faceless decoys, or "lures," as
the artist calls them. The purpose of a decoy--to lure and trap
live animals--leads to speculation their significance in Laemmle's
Another avenue of interpretation for these paintings,
may be Cheryl Laemmle's strong concerns about the environment. The
vast, empty landscape and the strange out-of-scale birdhouse, sitting
on the rock, remind us of similar dreamlike spaces in the work of
Yves Tanguy or Kay Sage, but here may also refer to the depletion
of natural resources by earth's inhabitants.
Cheryl Laemmle's paintings, while carefully and clearly
painted, remain mysterious. They tell a private story about Laemmle's
life, memories, and struggles, while at the same time leading us
to speculate about our own dreams, emotions, and memories.
the quality of an image, mythical figure, or story that refers to
something else entirely--usually large concepts such as good and
evil or the human condition.
practice of using something, usually an object or sign, to represent
something else, usually intangible, such as an idea or concept.
--An artist uses symbolism in their work.
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