The stories behind Cherylle Booker’s sculptures

By Boutayna Chokrane
November 2, 2023


Grief was inspired by the death of Project Onward’s studio manager Whitney Oliver.
Credit: Boutayna Chokrane

The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is one of Cherylle Booker’s cherished sanctuaries. A fortress of butterflies and solace that never fails to soothe her soul. “Every time I go there, I reach out my hand, and a butterfly lands on me,” Booker recalls. “How could you not feel more peaceful?”

Entering her forties, the artist, a native of Forest Park, has an insatiable fascination with the city. Her adventures, from natural havens to art galleries, eventually brought us to our meeting on a rainy Friday the 13th at the Epiphany Center for the Arts. Seated in its softly lit cafe bar, Booker fondly reminisces about her sightings of deer and foxes during walks in forest preserves.

Kathy Osler, Booker’s art therapist, reintroduced the artist to clay.
Courtesy Project Onward

Booker graciously offers to guide us through this enchanting labyrinth, a former Episcopal church built in 1885. We meander through a series of rooms, each adorned by divine architecture and art, including her latest exhibition, “Titania’s Masquerade: Unseen Worlds of Wonder,” open until November 4. 

Among her sculptures, Grief stands out in white stoneware, with glaze-induced bruises, flooding tears, and golden lacquer etched within its deliberate cracks. This piece, a raw embodiment of the inner strength in all of us, came upon hearing the tragic news of Project Onward’s studio manager Whitney Oliver’s passing, along with her unborn son, Felix. Booker is a storyteller at heart, drawing inspiration from Yoruba mythology, Shakespeare, and biblical stories, among other narratives. Through her art, a fusion of ancient and modern culture, Booker brings empathy to weighty discussions of mental health. “Part of having PTSD is hypervigilance, and I think that I see things and patterns that other people don’t notice,” Booker adds. “I use a lot of that in my artwork, and it informs the way that I treat people.” 




About Epiphany Center for the Arts

Conceived with the vision to return Epiphany to a place for people to congregate, the shuttered, historic Church of the Epiphany has been preserved and adapted into the Epiphany Center for the Arts, an iconic cultural hub “For the Good of Art, Entertainment and Events.” Thoughtfully designed, the exemplary 42,000-square-foot campus located on the artsy edge of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood boasts three distinct venues (Epiphany Hall, The Sanctuary and The Chase House) and a stunning array of amenities. The campus also features eight galleries that serve as a platform for a diverse selection of artists from Chicago and beyond. Epiphany’s exhibitions showcase the work of women, the LGBTQIA community, artists of color, and the disability culture. Epiphany’s top priority is to curate programming that is inclusive, while providing a place established artists can collaborate with emerging ones. Epiphany’s programming serves to unite community and artists alike while “Bringing Chicago Together.” Visit to learn more.