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Coleen Sterritt: A Study in Opposition

Coleen Sterritt is a sculptor whose work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Coleen Sterritt is a sculptor whose work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Noche a Noche, 1981, wood, tar, yucca stalks, paint, 90" x 36” x 36”

Noche a Noche, 1981, wood, tar, yucca stalks, paint, 90″ x 36” x 36”

In “Young Turks,” sculptor Coleen Sterritt discusses the erroneous assumptions some people make about her artwork based on her gender and physical appearance.

“When people meet me, and I say that I’m an artist, that I’m downtown,” Sterritt explains, “they think that I’m going to be making these pink pastel paintings or something, you know, because of how I come across.”

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Sterritt moved to Downtown Los Angeles and got her master’s degree at Otis Art Institute.

Sterritt rented this loft at 440 Seaton St. in what is now known as the Arts District.

Sterritt rented this loft at 454 Seaton St. in what is now known as the Arts District.

At her studio on Seaton Street (in what is today known as the Arts District), Sterritt constructed a variety of primitive-looking structures: Tripod shapes that supported heavy stones, or giant, skeletal towers that loomed over the viewer at a height of nearly nine feet.

“When they see that I make these big, heavy objects, it’s real uncomfortable,” Sterritt says. “It’s not pretty, I mean, it’s big, and it’s heavy, and it’s really like sadistic. It’s real torturous almost. I think it’s real different than what my image comes across as.”

Collect Call to Jimmy from Pinky, 1980, wood, cardboard, tar, hardware 96” x 84” x 132”

Collect Call to Jimmy from Pinky, 1980, wood, cardboard, tar, hardware, 96” x 84” x 132”

The oppositional dynamic of her “feminine” image and her “masculine” work is mirrored in the sculpture itself.

While the structure of a piece may have been “big … heavy … sadistic,” it’s surface decoration would be done in brightly colored paints or obsessively ornate patterns, creating an attraction/repulsion response. “I think the decorative quality could be somewhat of a lure,” Sterritt says in the documentary film, now available on DVD.

The sculptor at work in her Altadena studio.

The sculptor at work in her Altadena studio.

“The work a lot of times, because of the nature of the color and everything, it draws you in,” she continues, “and then after you look at it again, it’s like real gaudy, or it kind of puts you off at the same time.”

Sterritt is still creating complex and dynamic sculptures at the home in Altadena that she shares with her husband, Michael O’Reilly. She continues to present her work in group and solo exhibitions, including the recent show “From the Desert” at the Hudson/Linc gallery at the Pacific Design Center.

Coleen Sterritt resume
For more information on Sterritt’s work, visit coleensterritt.com.

ORDER ‘YOUNG TURKS’ ON DVD

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