Shori Sims opens her first solo exhibition at the Three Rivers Arts Festival

Shori Sims, A 2022 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, is featured in her first major solo exhibition of sculpture and painting at this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival. But she was out of town for her big time and missed the opening of Little Girl Urn at 707 Penn Gallery in the cultural district of downtown Pittsburgh.

“I’m disappointed I couldn’t be at the opening,” she said, “but I’ll be back to see it.”

Although Sims exhibited at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and with the Associated Artists of Pittsburghshe says this time was different.

Photo courtesy of Shori Sims.

What do you think of this first personal exhibition of sculpture and painting?

I feel really excited and happy about it, but also a little nervous how people are receiving it. This show was actually supposed to take place two years ago, but then Covid happened and everything went haywire. I’m still glad people like it. As an artist, I know you’re not supposed to care what other people think of your art, but I was definitely worried.

What were you worried about?

My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be enough work, like I thought maybe the place should be filled from floor to ceiling. There is still a lot of work and the space is small. I will admit that some of my fears were probably irrational.

“Persistence of Memory” by Shori Sims presented at 707 Penn Gallery. Photo by Yoori Kim.

In the description of the exhibition, it is stated that your work is about constructing a feminist utopia within the framework of the vision of the future of black people. Could you briefly expand on that?

As a black woman, I recognize the importance of the role women play in all aspects of black life and that includes the black liberation struggle. Black women have a big role to play in shaping and shaping the future of black people to somehow build the world we want to see. I feel like black women are often ignored or pushed to the back of the movement.

Why should people go to see your exhibition?

I think my art speaks or references important issues and if you are someone who is interested in the black liberation struggle from a feminist perspective or just wants to support the movement I think that could be an important sight to see.

What other places/artists are you inspired by?

I definitely draw inspiration from various artists, not entirely black women. Leila Faye is a black female artist that I really admire. Sasha Gordon is not a black female artist, but has a lot of autobiographical work that has influenced me.

I watch a lot of movies, naturally a lot of Spike Lee movies, and I draw a lot of influence from the 80s and 90s. With the “Bel Air” painting, I was really thinking about that era. Another movie I referenced with my “Lot’s Wife” chart is “ghost in the shell“, the 1995 original.

“Lot’s Wife” by Shori Sims is presented at the 707 Penn Gallery. Photo by Yoori Kim.

I also read a lot. Toni Morisson is an author that I greatly appreciate.

You don’t have to refer to things directly for their influence to be part of your work and that’s definitely the case with my work.

I am also very inspired by anime shoujo and other stuff like that. I’m also interested in Western comics and the intense symbolism that can be seen in them. I’m also very interested in graffiti and not necessarily Banksy type high art graffiti, but just the graffiti you see walking down the street. Not just aesthetically, but conceptually, how it democratizes public space.

What other mediums do you hope to explore/animate an exhibition with in the future?

I really love video and working with video, so that’s one thing I want to have around a show. I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist, so at some point I would like to combine sculpture with my interest in video. I want to find a way to bridge my video practice, my sculpture practice and my painting practice. Also, at the moment, I don’t really make games, but at some point, I would like to make a video game.

How did growing up in Baltimore and then coming to Pittsburgh affect your art?

I would say I didn’t go out much when I lived in Baltimore so I wouldn’t claim that much. I would say I really grew up in Pittsburgh.

Sure, there are amazing black women everywhere, but in Pittsburgh, I really got to see and interact with that in a very intimate way. I could just see all these black women living divorced from racism and I remember seeing protests and court support around the time of the George Floyd killings. It’s kind of allowed me to really be on the ground and see people actively working to fight racism and racism in all its forms, the specific types that are present in LGBTQ+ spaces or that target women and women.

What’s next for Shori Sims?

I know for a fact that I’m going to graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design in the fall and majoring in sculpture, but I’m going to see how I can bring my interdisciplinary skills to sculpture and video because I want to hone these two skills in particular. After that, I guess the sky’s the limit. I just want to tell people to follow along and stay tuned.

You can see Little Girl Urn from now until August 7 at 707 Penn Gallery in the Cultural District. This is one of seven exhibitions held in conjunction with the Three Rivers Art Festival, including the annual Visual arts exhibition with jury with regional artists.

707 Penn GalleryCultural DistrictDollar Bank Three Rivers Arts FestivalPittsburgh Cultural TrustThree Rivers Arts Festival

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