Photo credit: Cara Mastrostefano
Lead Artist of the project Make Our Differences Our Strengths Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer has been working as an artist, primarily as a painter, and designer for over 15 years. A native of Palmira, Colombia, Sheila graduated with a degree in Architectural Design from the Fundación Academia de Dibujo Profesional and studied Fine Arts at the Instituto Departamental de Bellas Artes in Cali, Colombia. Sheila is a 2017 Flight School Fellow, an initiative of Pittsburgh Center For The Arts/Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and Creative Capital.
Sheila’s work has been shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Susquehanna Museum of Art, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and numerous galleries in Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and Colombia. Sheila has been invited to show her work at the Pennsylvania State Capitol and the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Her design Democracy is Power was chosen by the Amplifier Foundation curatorial team, which includes Shepard Fairey, to travel around the country with #powertothepolls, a touring exhibit to inspire people from around the country to take to the polls for the 2018 Midterm Elections.
Sheila currently serves on Board of Directors of the Westmoreland Diversity Coalition and the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh.
For many years my work was the result of introspection and the passage of time. I created narratives of the under layers of existence, depicting memories of my own reality as an immigrant; exploring identity, diversity. The imagery in my work is based in actual places and experiences although my paintings fluctuate between imaginary landscapes and beings.
Five years ago, political commentary entered my work and I began to address the vast changes I see in society on a daily basis. Through my art I document the reaction to the political climate, the change in people’s behavior and the nature of political power. Also, I am interested in how basic ideas have played a crucial role in stirring up anger and violence and the distress that this causes to the most vulnerable.