Sharif Bey is a sculptor inspired by modernism, functional pottery, Oceanic and African art, and the art of the African diaspora. A Pittsburgh native, Bey spent his formative years visiting Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Now, he is collaborating with us for an upcoming project. Bey returned to Pittsburgh earlier this year to excavate both museum collections and dream up new work.
As a young person visiting Carnegie Museum of Art, artist Sharif Bey remembers being asked, “What do you respond to?” One answer? Birds and bird forms in art. In early March, Bey visited the bird study collections at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) with collections manager Steve Rogers. Not only are these specimens visually arresting, but they provide data for scientific researchers across the globe.
In February, Bey visited the vertebrate paleontology collections at CMNH with collections manager Amy Henrici and curatorial assistant Linsly Church. Can you tell how excited Bey is to make new artwork based on vertebrae from Apatosaurus parvus? We can’t wait! Bey is holding resin replicas in this photo and imagining them as components of a future sculpture.
Sharif Bey has long been fascinated with the sculptural forms inherent in functional objects. During a visit to CMNH’s anthropology section in March, he examined Yoruba agricultural axes with collections manager Deborah Harding.
Bey is quick to credit the many people who influenced his development as an artist—those whose artwork inspired him, like sculptors Isamu Noguchi or Constantin Brancusi, and those who made artistic practice seem like a viable vocation, like the artists he met at Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild as a teenaged apprentice in ceramics. Pittsburgh sculptor Thaddeus Mosley (b. 1926) did both. In March, Bey visited Mosley’s studio to see new work and catch up with his friend of more than 30 years.