Sheridan Furrer is one up and coming artist to keep an eye on. Born and raised in Colorado, Furrer has been showing her art in galleries across the Denver area since 2008. While most of her works are paintings — you may be able to find one of her murals around the city. She is currently learning how to combine her love of art with her passion for counseling — and discussed how art therapy can be beneficial in today’s world.
Furrer is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in art. Yet after graduation — she hopes to earn a Masters of Counseling degree with a focus on Art Therapy.
“Art has always been my main mode of therapy, so once I learned that it was an actual career, I knew that’s what I should put my energy towards in higher education,” Furrer said. “Art therapy is especially beneficial for clients who may not be able to express themselves verbally but then may be able to do so through visual mediums, such as in trauma cases with children and adolescents.”
Furrer explained how many alternative therapies have been shown to be more effective and less harmful than traditional medication. According to Furrer, creating art is a healthy way to express one’s inner feelings. By creating art, people then have the choice of either keeping it or destroying it, which gives power back to the individual.
“Personally speaking, the act of creating something can be a good way to cope, even if you aren’t consciously thinking on an issue,” Furrer said. “It’s going to come out in the work — in your use of color, application of medium and likely the content will reveal itself once explored within the therapeutic setting.”
Currently, Furrer is employed at a walk-in crisis center as a behavioral health technician. There, she has been able to facilitate art therapy groups and has found that her work there has only validated her career choices.
“The client response is always so positive and I gain so much joy from the experience,” Furrer said. “It’s a major confirmation for me that I’m on the right path.”
Seeing as Furrer has a passion for both art and psychology — it is no surprise she wanted to share some of her thoughts on the current COVID-19 crisis. According to Furrer, even the most introverted of us are still social creatures by design. Physical distancing and isolation may have a negative effect on many. She is set on encouraging those around her to reach out for help and shared that those experiencing distress should reach out to the Colorado Crisis Line.
“I want to take a minute and validate everything that humanity is feeling right now and remind you, dear readers, that it is okay to feel fear, anxiety and the existential dread of uncertainty,” Furrer said. “What’s also real is the resiliency of mankind and the compassion that each person is capable of. If we help each other and take care of ourselves, we will get through these times and flourish in the future.”
As for Furrer’s artistic endeavors — she is currently working on a thesis project for her art classes. Her thesis focuses on combining classical imagery with modern issues that face the world today.
“I really got into the imagery of the Madonna last spring and decided to follow that inspirational thread which led me to zero in on the iconography of pieta and Our Lady of Sorrows,” Furrer shared. “I just kept following this inspiration and my thesis evolved into what it is now, which consists of three pieta paintings.”
Two of these paintings represent violence in the Middle East and immigration issues. The third painting confronts the issues regarding women’s bodily autonomy. Furrer also created a ceramic piece for her thesis project which functions as a prayer candle holder. The holder itself features three prayer candles that show depictions of Mary and Jesus — while also incorporating a victim from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
While discussing her thesis work, Furrer shared how it can be difficult for her to have to analyze deeper meanings in her own art. She prefers to let her art speak for itself or let viewers decide the meaning.
“I don’t want to taint that purely personal interpretation with my ego or narrative,” Furrer said. “However, school has certainly taught me that this can’t always be the case. It’s more often than not beneficial to give people at least some direction to your work, if even in an artist statement.”
While Furrer admires Denver and the art community — she also spoke of how the art scene and social media can be a source of stress for artists.
“I do think the art world at large is extremely oversaturated and the art world is as much of a social game than one of talent and merit. Same with the double-edged sword of social media and exposure through those platforms,” Furrer said. “Personally, it all is super overwhelming and a source of much anxiety, so I’ve decided to just plod along and post work as I’m moved to.”
Furrer discussed how this pull towards social media and the resulting anxiety may be even more pronounced in today’s current crisis. She hopes that others will use this time to instead look inside themselves and find a passion.
“I hope people can survive the fear we’re [faced] with to find and nurture their passion, and that will get them through and inspire others to move beyond the paralysis of uncertainty,” Furrer said. “My passion is art and mental health, and I’m grateful that I can utilize both in these times to fill both my soul and help others.”