To hell and back: The tale of an artist | TheUnion.com

To hell and back: The tale of an artist

When famed New York art critic Jerry Saltz invited Sheila Cameron to join him in hell, she not only accepted but created an entire social media forum to invite others along on the journey.

The local artist, writer and person (as described on Cameron's blog http://sheilacameron.com) posted a few responses to an active Facebook conversation Saltz initiated on the 1913 Armory Show in New York. More than 1,200 comments have been posted from people discussing their feelings of marginalization regarding the art market today. Then one day, Cameron received an email from Facebook that Saltz had tagged her in one of his comments: "Sheila Cameron, Alright. You asked for it.

"Make 55 works with NO allusion to Fairytale.

"And experiment with various mediums and finishes and touches and surfaces and ideas-of-finish.

"Start today; you'll be in hell by the end of this VERY simple challenge…

"Maybe remove figures for these works as well.

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"Or just get to work.

"See you in Hell … … … maybe."

Those words were all it took to launch Cameron on a three-month journey that ended June 5, complete with 55 works of original art, a Facebook event and following dedicated to the challenge and a blog chronicling her experience. Cameron says she's not one to back down from a challenge, thus the "Jerry Saltz PERSONALLY Invited Me to Hell and I'm Going!" project.

"But as goes the Internet, as goes me and my work. The only proper response when someone tells me I 'asked for it' on the interwebs is to double-down, take the challenge and invite your friends to watch.

"I responded, 'No YOU asked for it,' and created this event," Cameron wrote in her first blog about the project.

Cameron describes Saltz as a respected New York art critic, who was on the Bravo show "Next Work of Art" and who was recently named one of "The 100 Most Influential New Yorkers" by the New York Observer.

"He is someone I follow on Facebook with a big art following and interesting takes on the art world as a whole," Cameron wrote.

For Cameron, the project provided an opportunity to unlock creativity and challenge herself.

She has a double degree in fine art and creative writing from Loyola University in Maryland. The artist and mother has an active presence through Facebook and her website but has tried to find a way to work with both her passions — writing and art — together.

This project forced her to take a more holistic look at what she wanted to make, Cameron said.

"It was a great experience in that regard," she added.

When she decided to take on this challenge, Cameron said she approached it as a performance piece.

"It was a great way for me to put what I do, what I think and what I say into alignment," she said.

Beyond that, there was no plan or strategy guiding her on the creative journey.

Now 52 of those works (three didn't make her cut) are available for viewing and purchase through Friday at an eBay store — 5 and Dime From Hell.

Cameron is unsure if Saltz has followed her to hell, but she likened it to "Waiting for Godot."

For her, it was all about the journey.

"I think it forced me to be comfortable with what kind of art I want to make," she said.

To read about the project, visit http://sheilacameron.com/sc/and-now-for-my-next-trick/.

Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at bbentley@theunion.com.

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