Cheryl Wassenaar is a visual artist who explores the function of text in a hybrid practice of painting, sculpture, and design. She works primarily with found commercial signage, repurposing the discarded wood into visual metaphors of communication that borrow from the language of modernist painting and contemporary advertising. Her latest body of work uses signmaker's vinyl for site-specific work, often collaborating with a writer or poet.
Wassenaar earned her BFA from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and her MFA from the University of Cincinnati. Her work is exhibited nationally and internationally, appearing in over fifty group and solo exhibitions. Her corporate collections include Fidelity Investments in Boston; Steelcase, Inc. in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.; and Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI. Her work was featured on three book covers and selected for Studio Visit 2009 and the quarterly Midwest 2002: New American Painters, published by Open Studios Press. Wassenaar is currently represented by LongView Gallery in Washington D.C. She serves as associate professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.
I construct my work from fragments of discarded commercial signage that I scavenge from roadways and the wastelands of commercial sprawl. Challenged by the desire to make useful what has been dismissed, I respond to this loud voice of urban commerce with processes that seem to oppose its quick efficiency. The sign's insistent, generic language is slowed to reveal the subtle nuances of visual and verbal form. Moving from an interest in the associative properties of typography, my recent work reconsiders the sign as a carrier of failed language, made inept through visual stutters, meaningless acronyms, technology glitches, text codes, and verbal filler. Once designed for a public space, these new signs are reorganized into aesthetic objects as a hybrid practice of design, painting, and sculpture.
The WashU student team of Anu Samarajiva (MArch/MUD), Lanxi Zhang (MLA/MUD), and Irum Javed (MPH) has won the Urban SOS: Fair Share competition for its prototype program to improve food access and equality by pairing mobile technology with the physical resources and distribution networks of the U.S. Postal Service.