Midtown Raleigh News

Artist Sherry di Filippo tackles fear, anxiety in surreal show

With the exhibit “Painful Nerd: A Dystopian Mythology,” artist Sherry di Filippo invites viewers to consider fear and anxiety.
With the exhibit “Painful Nerd: A Dystopian Mythology,” artist Sherry di Filippo invites viewers to consider fear and anxiety. COURTESY OF SHERRY DI FILIPPO

Artist Sherry di Filippo draws figures, makes animated films, crafts lifelike dolls and builds moving sculptures.

In every medium, she’s interested in the surreal and how conveying bits and pieces of experiences and ideas can add up for her audience.

“I think there’s a lot of value in communicating something like it were a dream,” she said.

Her viewers likely won’t walk away with a linear plot or a fully formed political manifesto, but she hopes they will feel the emotions she tried to convey.

In “Painful Nerd: A Dystopian Mythology,” her new exhibition with Turner Brandon, di Filippo invites viewers to consider fear and anxiety. The show at “The Cube,” an experimental gallery space at Visual Art Exchange, is part of this month’s First Friday gallery walk and runs through Feb. 6.

She wonders what would happen if negative emotions were given more weight in how we understand ourselves rather than being banished as we move quickly to the next thing.

“I think we live in a culture where everyone has to be an expert at compartmentalizing,” she said. “You don’t get to deal with fear or anxiety in a way that gives them any value.”

In the show, drawing human heads atop delicate nerve endings, an animated band plays a perpetual sound check and two kinetic sculptures never manage to meet despite their best efforts.

Many of the characters in the show originated with Turner. Then di Filippo, 34, worked to bring them to life in their various forms.

She thinks her own fears and anxieties that underlie the show – especially about how money too often dictates whether society considers something worthwhile – will resonate with many.

Growing up in North Raleigh, di Filippo said she always was creating, whether it was shows with her siblings (they once staged “The Exorcist” though none of them had seen it) or drawing pictures in the living room.

Even then, di Filippo remembers an interest in making her imagination come to life.

“My interest in art, ever since I was little, was to make stuff up,” she said.

Di Filippo stayed interested in art throughout school and graduated from Sanderson High School.

About a decade later, as an art student at Meredith College, she found a passion for figure drawing. She then headed to graduate school at New York Academy of Art with the idea that she wanted to try animation.

The idea stuck. Though di Filippo still draws figures and still lifes, animation also has become a valuable medium, she said.

To create the characters and scenes that populate her short films, she gathers bits of materials from wherever she can, making use of ping pong balls, old clothes and cardboard boxes.

While she would love to have a bigger budget someday, the process forces her to learn new techniques and devise ways to bring her visions to life.

Di Filippo said her artistic efforts to consider unpleasant scenarios and feelings are made easier by working with other artists and friends, like Turner, who are familiar with her experiences.

Together they can go to the dark places to explore a whole world to engage their viewers.