‘The Nature of Light’ exhibition opens at Mercantile Library

by | Oct 13, 2016

Free and open to the public beginning Oct. 17, the show features the photography of Heidi Lopata Sherman, who was, in her own words, obsessed with light.
Sherman photo

The showcase of photography by Heidi Lopata Sherman (1954-2014) opens Oct. 17 and will remain on display through May 2017. This silver gelatin print from 1989 is titled “Interiors #12, Kerosene Lamp on Table.” (Images courtesy of the St. Louis Mercantile Library)

The late photographer Heidi Lopata Sherman was, in her own words, obsessed with light. A St. Louis native, she brought that fascination to bear on a broad range of visual work over the course of her career.

After Sherman passed away in 2014, her husband donated many of her printed and digital photographs to the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Now the library is helping to share her wide-ranging repertoire with the broader community.

On Monday, an exhibition of her pieces opens at the library, titled “The Nature of Light: Photographs by Heidi Lopata Sherman.” Like the library itself, the show is open between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday (see full hours here).

Sherman daisy photograph

Heidi Lopata Sherman photographed “Gerbera Daisy” in 2004 with a digital camera, but most of her techniques involved hand-rubbing varnish or the labor-intensive method of contact prints.

“Her work is characterized by an intuitive use of light and shadow to create drama, evoke emotion and convey a sense of mystery,” notes Julie Dunn-Morton, curator of fine art collections at the Mercantile Library. “She reveled in light’s role in her work. Of equal importance was her love of nature and her need to physically connect with the land, whether in her backyard or in a formal garden.”

Located in the library’s Bates Gallery, the exhibition is a retrospective, presenting the broad range of Sherman’s work. It includes exquisite small-format platinum print landscapes, large-format silver gelatin print landscapes and interiors, and brilliant large-format floral studies.

“It explores her work within the context of her connection to and exploration of nature – as well as her dedication to traditional photographic techniques,” Dunn-Morton says. “That makes this installation informative to photography enthusiasts, students and those who love nature.”

Sherman’s career included graphic design work and teaching photography in addition to solo exhibitions at Martin Schweig Gallery (St. Louis) and the Dallas Museum of Art and group exhibitions that included the Saint Louis Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Massachusetts and more.

Sherman Aspen photograph

Just one of many images included in the new exhibition, “Maroon Bells Aspen” is a platinum print from 1993.

Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum, The Gernsheim Collection in Switzerland, the Pennsylvania Historical Railroad Museum and numerous private collections around the world.

It’s been a busy 2016 already for the Mercantile Library, which is currently celebrating 170 years of existence. The debut of “The Nature of Light” adds another highlight to the mix and will bring related events to the UMSL campus in the months ahead.

Stay tuned for more information about an upcoming author/curator tour tentatively set for sometime next spring. It will feature comments by Allen Sherman (the artist’s husband), who wrote a book on Sherman’s photographs that accompanies the exhibition, along with Leo Mazow, curator of American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Dunn-Morton, who each contributed to the book.

Free public tours of the Mercantile, including “The Nature of Light,” are available each weekend – 11 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday – and on weekdays by appointment (call 314-516-7281).

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill