Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

My Cultural Thumbprint By Encinitas Artist Cheryl Sorg

Artist Cheryl Sorg's thumbprint interpretation of Culture Lust's Angela Carone.
Artist Cheryl Sorg's thumbprint interpretation of Culture Lust's Angela Carone.

There are certain questions to avoid at social gatherings and dinner parties, ones that will - unfairly - speak volumes about your cultural literacy, seal impressions, and haunt you for years to come. These simple questions can instill panic and an instant lack of recall.

They are impossible to answer, akin to questions like "what do women want?" and "where do marshmallows come from?" These questions are the following and their various offshoots: "What is your favorite movie of all time? "What is your favorite book of all time?" "Who is the greatest artist in the history of the world, in your opinion?" Impossible, right?

Answering the "all time" question always overwhelms me, so when artist Cheryl Sorg asked if she could make one of her thumbprint portraits of me for an upcoming show, I was thrilled to learn I could include hundreds of titles! Sorg, an Encinitas-based artist who often creates intricate, large-scale sculpture out of text, takes an actual thumbprint of her subject to use as the grid for his or her cultural thumbprint.

Sorg works with her subjects to gather their favorite books, book quotes, song lyrics, movies, and anything culturally meaningful to them that can be found in text. Once Sorg has her list, she finds the corresponding text and cuts it up into tiny strands that she weaves and curves into the actual thumbprint.

Sorg created my portrait for the San Diego Visual Arts Network exhibit called "Movers and Shakers 2: Who's Who in the San Diego Visual Arts," which is currently on view at Art Expressions Gallery. The show includes close to 50 portraits of arts leaders by various San Diego artists. I was at the exhibit's opening on Thursday night to see my thumbprints (I gave Sorg so much content she had to create two!) and was absolutely giddy with the results.

It took me about three weeks to come up with my important movies, books, and song lyrics. It takes some thought to organize the content. I decided to work biographically, highlighting the works that have been important to me over time. So while it's been years since I've read the poetry of John Donne, I had quite a Donne craze for a while in college (which led to a major girl crush on playwright Margaret Edson, whose Pulitzer-Prize winning "Wit" is equally occupied with Donne's work).

I also had the requisite hyper-identified feminist phase for a long stretch of my college years, thus my thumbprint includes Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, and the like. But also included are the lyrics to Silent Night in German, which my grandfather sang every year at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. And, of course, true to my more recent cultural obsessions, there are two quotes by Omar, from "The Wire."

I had so many films on my list, Sorg decided to create two thumbprints, one for just movies and the other for everything else (she was incredibly patient with me!). She used movie posters for the film one, so my movie thumbprint is full of color and bits of graphics.

Sorg makes these thumbprints on commission, so if you have an art and culture lover in your life and you want to amaze them with the perfect gift, commission a thumbprint. I had loads of fun revisiting all the works that have been important to me over the years. The experience is so rewarding, and the resulting thumbprints so special, I can't imagine a better gift for an art lover.

Sorg is also organizing an effort based on the thumbprints, where she's approaching celebrities, artists and journalists to do their portraits as a fundraiser for organizations combating human trafficking, sex slavery and child sexual exploitation.

"Movers and Shakers 2: Who's Who in the San Diego Visual Arts" will be on view at Art Expressions Gallery through February 6th.