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CNR Alum Shervone Neckles Discusses her Life as a Working Artist

November 26, 2018

This fall’s SAS Visiting Artist Lecture welcomed alumna Shervone Neckles BFA'02 back to CNR to speak with students about her life as a working artist, share where she draws her inspiration for her newest collection, and how she plans on turning a social experiment into a work of art.

Since 2016, Neckles has been conducting a series of social experiments using a rolling cart packed with a variety of herbs and teas, which she calls the Creative Wellness Gathering Station. “I decided to share the knowledge I have gathered about loose herbs and their medicinal properties. I take this cart out and share this wellness tea that I grew up with,” she said. “I invite people to sample the tea, take some to go, and to use the herbs to make their own tea. To commemorate the exchange, I invite participants to also put a pinch of their mix into a pouch and write their names on it. My plan is to collect all of these pouches and make them into some kind of multimedia tent structure or shelter.”

Neckles added that she enjoys it when people approach her to tell her how to best use herbs and even about the memories those herbs evoke. “I get so much joy out of chatting with people. I am amazed that people trust me, they’ll drink from me, take herbs from me, and share stories with me about the herbs, teas, and how their families use them. They even share their personal health issues with me. It just blows my mind.”

To guide her work, Neckles says, she uses experiences from her life and interactions with her community. She is currently in the middle of creating a 50-piece collection called Provenance. Each of the 50 individual pieces begin with a silhouette polyester plate print of a female figure on which she embroiders different materials and elements that represent memories, feelings, and emotions. “Each piece represents some kind of encounter whether it’s internal, external, or through the art world, that creates a desire to go back and respond in some way, and bring what I’m feeling to life.” She shared that she even created a piece using tobacco leaves to help her cope with the recent loss of a family member.

Neckles considers herself very fortunate to be able to make a living pursuing her passion. Right after graduation from CNR, Neckles learned that she was a recipient of an MFA grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, which allowed her to immediately begin working in the field. Now, she works for the foundation as an Artist Programs Manager of Professional Development. In this role she helps, “provide professional development support to our grant recipient community. I’m a grant recipient myself,” she said. “I understand the struggles. I’m an artist, juggling work, a family, and creating and showing pieces… so I get to share my experiences about the reality of being a working artist.”