Cheryl started her journey into the world of art though fashion, creating paper clothes for her dolls as a little girl. Living in apartheid South Africa, when people of colour weren’t able to get formal tertiary education, Cheryl forged a path for herself as a pattern maker and fashion designer.
At the age of 33, Cheryl and her only child moved to Brisbane. With her qualifications not being recognised, being a single mum, and not being eligible for Centrelink, she used her last $216 to purchase a second hand sewing machine and fabric, created clothes, sold them at markets, and started a new chapter in her life with CMW Designs.
Later, Cheryl opened CMW Boutique in Chapel Hill, Queensland, and a few years later, The Art of Fashion. When the global financial crisis hit, Cheryl lost everything, including her house and businesses, after which she declared bankruptcy. During this time she also became very ill, both mentally and physically, and moved to Melbourne in 2009 to start a new life.
Cheryl studied Art at Victoria University, exploring many forms of visual and fibre art. Her artistic practice on upcycling materials to create works which are painted, woven, and sewn "with strokes and threads of love" developed during this time and continues to this day.
In 2013 Cheryl’s child, who is transgender, attempted suicide several times. Cheryl moved in with her child, but their tenancy was not secure in several of the places they stayed. After a breakdown, and suffering from trauma, anxiety and depression (something she has lived with for many years), Cheryl’s journey into homelessness started. During this time she stayed with her daughter’s friend and also in squalid conditions in a rooming house.
Cheryl eventually found accommodation with Womens Housing Limited, where she founded an arts-based initiative, Tangerine ArtScape, focusing on women, particularly women who are tired, broken, homeless, and/or socially and financially disadvantaged.
Cheryl is currently residing in Transitional housing provided by Salvation Army Eastern.
Today, Cheryl’s hope is that her story of resilience, strength and hope in the face adversity will inspire and help others.
Cheryls art can be viewed at http://www.kindredartspace.com.au/art-gallery/ and http://www.opencanvas.com.au/artists/cheryl-widlend/