Cheryl Derricotte in Residence at Paper Machine

Cheryl Derricotte is a visual artist and her favorite mediums are glass and paper. Originally from Washington, DC, she lives and makes art in San Francisco, CA. Her art has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The San Francisco Chronicle, MerciSF and the San Francisco Business Times. In 2021, she was awarded the commission to develop a monument to Harriet Tubman, at the new transit-oriented development, Gateway at Millbrae Station; it is believed to be the first sculptural tribute to Tubman in glass.

In 2020, Cheryl was named one of the YBCA100, an annual list that “celebrates the everyday heroes—artists, activists, and community leaders—for their extraordinary commitment to building sustainable, equitable, and regenerative communities.” In addition to Paper Machine, she has been an artist-in-residence at Villa San Francisco; Black(space) Residency; Gardarev Center; a Windgate Craft Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, and a Hemera Foundation Tending Space Artist Fellow. Cheryl was an inaugural Emerging Artist at the Museum of the African Diaspora in 2015/2016, on the occasion of the Museum’s 10th Anniversary. She holds a B.A. in Urban Affairs (Minor: History), Barnard College, Columbia University; the Master of Regional Planning, Cornell University and the Master of Fine Arts, California Institute of Integral Studies. 

During her residency at Paper Machine, Cheryl will begin work on a new project entitled Friend of John, to visually tell the story of a woman who was a trusted confidant of abolitionist John Brown. Mary Ellen Pleasant was once the richest Black woman in San Francisco, a self-proclaimed “capitalist” on the 1890 census. Mary Ellen Pleasant was bi-coastal; a central figure in both California politics and the Underground Railroad. She reportedly gave John Brown $30,000 towards the raid on Harper’s Ferry. 

In her autobiography, Mary Ellen Pleasant said she was the daughter of a “full-blooded Negress from Louisiana.” Some believed her Mom was actually Haitian. It is also believed that in between slavery and freedom, Mary Ellen spent some time as a linen worker at the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans. She would later return to the city, living in the home of her soon-to-be second husband, J. J. Pleasance (aka Pleasant).  While waiting for J.J. to bring her to San Francisco, it was said that she began studying under Madame Marie LeVeaux, who famously combined Vodou with community service. 

At Paper Machine, Cheryl will assemble historical images and contemporary photos of places believed to relate to Mary Ellen Pleasant’s life in New Orleans. This research will form the basis of a print project and artist book. The title of this new work, Friend of John, is a play on words with the well-known Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) signifier “Friend of Bill,” as anonymity and privacy were equally paramount to the abolitionist movement. The title also acknowledges Mary Ellen Pleasant’s final act of defiance, as she requested her tombstone state that she was “a friend of John Brown.”

From Cheryl:

“They say good things come to those who wait. My residency was originally slated for April 2020, and we all know how that went. Seems we had to wait out the pandemic and equally dreadful, Hurricane Ida. I am so glad that we all made it through these storms, and I am happy to finally be with the team at the beautiful Paper Machine studio.”

Artist Talk with Cheryl Derricotte

Tuesday, November 16th at 6:30 p.m. at Paper Machine, 6330 St. Claude Avenue

Hybrid event, RSVP to to reserve one of 20 in-person spaces, or for zoom link for the event.

Cheryl Derricotte will be discussing her book arts project Friend of John, currently in the development during her month-long residency at Paper Machine. This book arts print project explores the Louisiana intersections in the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant, a trusted confidant of abolitionist John Brown. She was also once the richest Black woman in San Francisco, a self-proclaimed “capitalist” on the 1890 census.

Paper Machine’s November Artist-in-Residence, Cheryl Derricotte, has a new show online now. Cash Crops, her first solo presentation with re.riddle, features 12 new works in glass and on paper. The Antenna/Paper Machine community is invited to join re.riddle for “In Conversation: Ashara Ekundayo x Cheryl Derricotte,” Nov 22, 2021 5pm PST/ 7pm CST/ 8pm EST Register Here for Zoom Link.