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Cherryn Girdwood: Idaho woman’s art roots her to the Earth, to life

May 1st, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

By Dani Hayes

RIGBY, Idaho—To see one of her paintings is to glimpse into her soul. Fragments of her life are cemented within each stroke of hardened paint on the store-bought canvas. When you buy a Cherryn Girdwood original, you are buying a piece of Cherryn.

“She is literally painting her life experience,” said best friend Jennifer Heath. “Cherryn paints what’s in her heart, so the type of person she is, the life she lives, comes out in her paintings.”


“Spring Blooms,” by Cherryn Girdwood

Girdwood is originally from Perth, Australia, and evidence of her Aussie past is evident in every painting. Her backgrounds encompass swirling, blurred colors, reminding her of the heat waves radiating off the steaming earth.

“My happy place was the beach and I was looking at the sky through a heat wave,” Girdwood said. “It has stuck with me.”

Her subject matter ranges from peacocks and koi fish to jazz players and dancers. A large proportion of her art is what Girdwood calls her “Lady Trees”—rooted, sturdy trees shaped as women, expressive of feminine energy.

“The beautiful thing about women is we are the life-givers and the love-bringers,” Girdwood said. “That is an inherent gift that we have—it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with the fact that we are female, and every female of their species—doesn’t matter if she’s a human or a bird or a worm—they are the life-givers. They are the nurturers.”

Girdwood wants to inspire a change in the damaging trends she sees the women of the world undertaking. She said she paints women because, for thousands of generations, women have been taught to be mean to one another, and that needs to change.

“Rather than looking at each other as people we need to beat or others that we need to push down in some way, I really want to embrace women and the beauty that we have as a group of people,” she said. “We’re amazing! I think it needs to be celebrated. I think we need to start reeducating women that in fact we are really good for each other; that we can learn from each other.

“The truth of the matter is, if one of us is crying, we are all crying. We’re all connected.  I want to show female energy in the loving, nurturing light that it should be in,” she said.

HayesCherryn2“If we start healing our women and start bringing positive life back into the women of the world, that’s when we are we are going to see a big change. It’s only because women have finally started to love each other—not love through vanity or pride, but love through kindness and happiness and joyfulness, and just support and empathy those beautiful emotions that we choose to ignore.”

Girdwood tries to encompass these qualities into her character, and express them to the world through her art. This is one of her many traits that attracted her fiancé when they began dating.

“Everything appealed to me,” Taylor Wight said. “There’s nothing I don’t appreciate.”

Together, they grew into complementary yin and yangs, he said. “We worked for year to better ourselves, to become the kind of humans that society needs,” Wight said. He said before he met Girdwood he was quick to anger, judgment and jealousy.

“She’s a people-pleaser and I’m a steamroller,” he said. “I know what I want and I speak it, usually in a nice way, though, but she has helped me be more calm and not as angry. I’ve helped her be able to please people but not get walked over.”

Fierce. Loving. Kind.

One painting in particular shows the complementary qualities Girdwood wants to see in women. “Spring Blooms” is part of her “Lady Trees” series, with dominate colors of gold, brown and green. We see the back of a lady tree whose branches flow up from her rooted base toward a blurred city shadowed in darkness.

“What would happen if there was one woman for each city and that woman, her whole job, was just to make sure that people’s hearts were in the right place?” Girdwood said. “All she did was to help people remember the kind of people they truly are.”

The words she uses to describe this particular lady tree are fierce, loving, kind and ironclad.

“She’s not the kind of woman that gets walked over; she’s the kind of woman that tells you exactly how it is, in kindness.”

Girdwood chose to represent the female energy as trees because they are grounded, explaining that’s where wisdom comes from. “Not running-around trees, but grounded,” she said.

Girdwood had to learn to be rooted at a young age. She is the youngest of four siblings of who all looked up to her.

THE GIRDWOOD GIRLS—Sisters Nicolle (left) and Cherryn Girdwood

THE GIRDWOOD GIRLS—Sisters Nicolle (left) and Cherryn Girdwood love life.

“Cherryn has not let anything get in her way in becoming the best person she could become,” says her only sister, Nicolle Stewart. “Through an extremely hard childhood, divorce, single parenting, away from the support of her immediate family, Cherryn has just become an amazing person. She has walked some hard roads to get there, but truly, I feel she has just become so clear and complete in who she is and what she wants in life for her and her family.

“I am not sure she even realizes just how great she is,” Nicolle said, “which in itself is a lovely trait.”

Their brother, Grant Girdwood, agrees. “She was just a fun, beautiful, happy child in an environment that wasn’t as happy as she might hope for,” he said. “Cherryn is a beautiful person who has inspired all of her siblings to move forward in some way. We’re all very grateful to have her in our life.”

Her other brother, Matthew, describes his love for his sister through her art.

“I could talk forever on how I admire and love my sister, but for her art—I believe it can talk for itself,” he said. “I know when people see it for the first time, they will be caught by its beauty, the depth of color, the mystery that it may hold, the life that it exudes and the kookiness that is my sister Cherryn.”

A Piece of Cherryn

In each of her works, Girdwood has a goal to have the viewer feel how much she personally loves that painting.

“When you buy a piece and hang it in your house, I hope that trade—you giving me cash and me giving you part of my heart—I hope that stays,” she said. “I want you to look at that painting and go, ‘Man, she loves that so much. It makes me smile looking at that.’”

It’s not about the money for Girdwood; it’s about being able to paint. She also wants her works not to be duplicated. She sells only originals because of the pure emotion she wants to transfer to the buyer that comes from seeing the actual dried paint.

“I want people to know that when they buy something of mine, they’re getting something that is unique —nobody else has it,” she said. “That’s another thing about art—it’s not about a reproduction, it’s about getting something that is unique, one-of-a-kind; that is expressive, has emotion, has feeling.”

When Girdwood goes to art festivals and displays her art to sell, she has to put up a do-not-touch sign. “People touch what they like,” Girdwood said.

Her art is about texture, color and movement. The swirling use of blended color and 3D globs of paint suck in the onlookers as they unconsciously want to stroke the painting.

HayesCherryn3“If I were going to be a love child of two artists, it would be Henry Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh,” Girdwood said. “Vincent van Gogh, obviously with the texture and movement in his work; Henry Matisse, with the color and simplicity.”

She wants to paint in a way that the viewer does not feel like they’re standing still. She wants their eyes continuously moving, capturing emotion and exploring the energy Girdwood used while painting.

“Her art always speak to me deeply,” said Genene Wight, Girdwood’s future mother-in-law. “The depth and texture—those are things that stir me down in places that can’t be defined. She is able to evoke a mood in me with a combination of color and movement.”

For Genene Wight, one particular painting moved her to tears. She talked with Girdwood about it and she said, “It’s you. It’s your energy.” In this painting, Girdwood captured Genene’s energy with an accuracy that Genene first realized at an emotional level.

“It was very moving,” she said.

Girdwood has now lived in Idaho for 17 years. She has three sons and will marry Taylor Wight this summer. She is the founder and administrator of Liberty Montessori School in Rigby, but hopes one day to retire so she can dedicate all her time to her family and painting—the most personal things she holds dear in her life.


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  1. One Response to “Cherryn Girdwood: Idaho woman’s art roots her to the Earth, to life”

  2. By sarah on May 2, 2013

    these pictures do not do justice to Cherryn’s paintings! they are so texturally bold and filled with emotion! there is so much of her life infused into each painting; it feel like it is living art!

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