Folk Artist Displays Re-emergence in Johnson Center Gallery

Posted: December 4, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Folk artist Cher Shaffer’s paintings and sculptures embody the spirit of Appalachian culture at the same time they try to dispel the stereotypes surrounding the people of that area. Her artwork is currently displayed in the Johnson Center Gallery through Dec. 20 in an exhibit called Re-emergence. Shaffer was invited to George Mason as part of the Appalachian Folklore and Culture class currently being offered by the Department of English.

An artist’s talk will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, followed by a reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the gallery. During the talk, Shaffer will discuss her upbringing in northern Georgia and will show how she evolved as an artist. The reception will feature a performance by Arlington musician Master Old Time Fiddler Roy Odell “Speedy” Tolliver.

Re-emergence will provide an overview of Shaffer’s work from 1978 to the present. The exhibit includes traditional folk art scenes, richly colored fantasy environments, and three-dimensional spirit dolls. In her art, Shaffer expresses her Native American, African American, and German heritage.

According to Debra Shutika, assistant professor of English, “[Shaffer] is not what you expect when you think of the area. Because she’s from a multiethnic background, she has a unique vision of Appalachia. Although she has had no formal training as an artist, she’s very sophisticated in her vision of life and experience.”

Shaffer achieved national recognition in 1989 when Ramona Lampell, author of the folk art book, O, Appalachia: Artists of Southern Mountains, featured some of her work. Shaffer stopped painting in 1994, but re-emerged this year to continue her examination of the Appalachian culture. This is her first exhibition in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Johnson Center Gallery is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Folklore at GMU web site.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Folklore Programs and the Department of English, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Art and Visual Technology, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. It is also made possible by grants from the University Life Programming Committee of George Mason and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.

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