Author: vsperry

I am a sculptor working in steel, polymer clay and other materials.

Abstractions

I realize that my animal sculptures are the most popular of my works. They bring smiles to peoples faces which is my main goal. But quite honestly, my abstract work is my favorite stuff to make. I can really dig down inside of me and create feelings and stories that resonate in a purely non-verbal way.

It is difficult, though, to be an abstract artist these days without having an ulterior motive for creating something. It seems there has to be a deeper meaning, an underlying reason for making something. Environmentalism, sexual identity, politics, family values…the list is endless. I get so frustrated because, while I have subjects that are close to my heart, I don’t always think about them when I am creating. My focus tends to be more simple, a shape, a color, a pattern, a texture, an emotion, a story. I sometimes feel that the art world has forgotten about these words, has declared them too easy, too “surfacey” to talk about.

I ran across this quote in a book called “Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists” by Donna Seaman. The first chapter is about Louise Nevelson, a Grand Dame of Abstract Collage. One paragraph caught my eye and caused an “AHA!” moment for me. I felt vindicated, that perhaps there is, after all, an ulterior motive for what I do. It just doesn’t always have to be put into words.

“Abstract art is an invitation to imagine, to interpret, to reflect. Abstract art induces reverie. It liberates us from the literal and the everyday, and provides a bridge to the realm of the collective unconscious. Like jazz musicians–who begin with a deep knowledge of song and traditional composition, then venture out into new territory, making fresh connections and creating unforeseen variations on a theme–abstract artists improvise on line and form, light and dark, emptiness and presence. Abstract art is about mass and energy, being and nothingness, moods and correspondences. We absorb its emotional valence, its action or stillness, cacophony or silence. Our busy minds instinctively seek patterns and images in abstract art, just as we do when we gaze at clouds fire, rain, and falling, whirling snow.”

EXACTLY!!!

Photos taken at two different junkyards in the past couple of weeks. I am still having so much fun with this photography stuff!!!

Junkyard

I don’t have a lot of time to write but I have been having so much fun photographing stuff at the local junkyards and I wanted to share some of them with you. After taking the class at ICP this summer, I think I have found my new oeuvre: abstract photos of metal, rust and other stuff. I am in love with the colors, textures and stories that I find hiding in the rows and rows of dead cars. I will be putting more of them on my website within the next few days, but here is a sample of what I have been finding!

Photography class part 2

Here is the final project that I submitted for my online photography class at the International Center for Photography. I was unable to “attend” the last two classes as I was traveling, but the teacher taped them, so I learned everything I needed to.

All of these pictures were taken in or around the bottom floor of my barn. There is an old horse stable and a milking parlor that have not been used for decades. I spent some time, at different parts of the day, peering through windows and getting down on the ground to see this barn from different views. I am interested in recording images of objects that are past their sell by date. In other words, I look for objects and scenes that are no longer used for their original purpose.

Enjoy!!!

 

I also ran across this house one day last month. It was not part of my final project, but it is definitely part of my extended project. I can only surmise what happened to it.

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Photography class

I am taking an online photography class with the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC. Photography  has always been a wonderful outlet for me, it provides me with a serenity that I don’t see in the rest of my life. When I’m behind the camera, time stops. No that’s not right, it doesn’t stop, it just doesn’t matter.

However, I have always had a difficult time learning about f-stops and ISO and all of that technical stuff. The mechanics of a camera remain a mystery to me…they make absolutely no sense to my brain. For some reason, though, during my trip to Namibia, something started to creep through the fog and I started to figure out a way to understand it. This class is cementing that understanding and I feel like I have stepped into a new area of my photographic life. I hope that photography will always be a part of my creativity.

Here are the eight pictures I chose for our first assignment. It was a basic assignment, taking pictures with various shutter speeds and apertures, at various times of the day and of various subjects. We have not gotten to the post production editing section of the course but I am pretty pleased with how these came out without even changing anything.

Click on an image to start a slide show…Enjoy!

perception: part one

per·cep·tion
pərˈsepSH(ə)n/
noun
noun: perception; plural noun: perceptions
  • the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
    • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
    • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
    • intuitive understanding and insight.
    • PSYCHOLOGY/ZOOLOGY
      the neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli.

 

(For the purposes of this blog post, I am concentrating on the second part of this definition, the mental impressions we have of ourselves and the world around us.)

I have been pondering this term perception for quite some time. It crept into my brain during the elections, most specifically to explain the outcome. I began to realize that it didn’t matter what Hillary Clinton did or did not do, the perception that she did something wrong (or even illegal) was strong enough to stop people from voting for her.

Perception is much different than reality or truth. Perception is based on all sorts of factors, some of which have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with our backgrounds, our experiences, our morals, our wishes and our desires. It is not quantifiable, nor is it something that can be predicted on an individual level.

There are many ways that perception has been wandering around my thoughts lately. I had actually planned several other posts about it, but I think they will have to wait. This morning there was an image on facebook that hit me squarely in the gut.

The image was of a lion lying dead among the rocks.

Considering how many images flash before my eyes as I scroll through facebook, it is fair to ask, why did this one catch my eye? I don’t have a pet lion, I don’t go to the zoo often enough to get to know the lions personally. I can’t say I have even seen this lion.

Here’s the thing. Tullamore was a part of a (now) rare group of lions. Most of the time we see lions living in the savannah, moving through the grass, showing up around waterholes and hunting the plentiful game. The lions of the west coast of Namibia are desert lions. They live in some of the harshest conditions, little water, little vegetation and little game. They have lived in this area for a very long time and once were pretty plentiful. Then came man. And cows. And other livestock.

In an area that is short on game, it makes sense that a herd of cows would be seen as a gift to a predator. It would also make sense that the owners of the cows would take great offense at having their livelihood eaten by a big cat. Here is where the perception thing comes in.

I am a rich American. I take a trip to Africa, stay in a lodge in the middle of a dessert for three days. I hear about these animals and I see the beauty of them. That is, after all, why I am there. I am a woman from the east coast of the US where there are no predators and I get to stand in front of a cheetah, or a rhinoceros, or to get close enough to practically touch an elephant and it seems like a dream. In the safety of my vehicle or standing beside the tracker with his gun, I am allowed the luxury of “being with” the animals, seeing them walk, run, play and hunt. I come home to watch countless videos of animals in the wild or Planet Earth or read books about how many species are going extinct. I view, from afar, the devastation of man around the world. And I judge. And I grieve. My perception of the death of a lion is based on my need to pet the fox when I was three (my mother nixed that idea quickly). My heartache comes from knowing that “Tullamore” was the last of a group of five male lions in the area (they were called the Five Musketeers). His four compadres were shot or poisoned over the last few years by farmers. I grieve because I met the guy who has has been studying these proud animals, a man who spends much of his life in isolation, and loves it. Unless someone kills an animal.

So what would be my perception if I were a Namibian farmer who does not see any monetary gain and many deficits with the lion population? What if I wanted to send my children to a good school, or build new fences, or dig a new well and a lion started to eat my profits? What if I am of a generation that grew up killing predators without judgement, in fact was rewarded with a pat on the back from my fellow farmers? How would I perceive lions then?

I don’t know. That is the thing about perception. You can’t always tell how you would react if you were in someone else’s shoes. I can only hope to feel compassion for this person. It is tough, it is a stretch for me, at least until I stop feeling so very angry and sad. Until I stop feeling. But right now, my perception of the person who poisoned this lion is that they are not a good person. I don’t know them, I will never meet them, but at this moment I hate them.

I will end by showing three photos. The first two are of cubs in the sand dunes. The last is of Dr. “Flip” Stander monitoring the lions. Despite the setbacks of the last couple of years, he continues to work with the growing population of lions, as well as finding ways of connecting with the surrounding human population. Looking at these pictures makes me smile. Life includes death, even if it doesn’t feel good. But for now, I want to concentrate on the living…

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late night ramblings

My dad was a writer. Not in the traditional sense. I mean, he never published a book, never had a movie made, never came up with an amazing script for the theater. No, his writings were more about his reactions to the world he lived in. They were published, but usually by the local weekly paper that came out in our small town of 3,000 people in the northwest corner of CT. And, generally, you would only find them in the letters to the editor section.

When I was growing up, we had a set of stairs that led from the kitchen to the hallway right outside my room. A typical night for me would be to fall asleep to the smell of cigarette smoke, the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass and the tap of typewriter keys as my father collected his inebriated but highly intelligent thoughts into some kind of coherent response to any perceived attack on reason and intelligence in the community. The subjects could be anything from local politics to the Viet Nam war to local art scene…you name it, if he felt that someone was wrong, he would try to correct them.

Dad was a guy who could do the Times crossword puzzle in ink. He loved word games…especially Scrabble. In fact, it wasn’t until he was in his late eighties that I consented to play Scrabble with him, it wasn’t until then that I was mostly able to keep up with him. Words were his life. He reveled in stringing words together to create a meaning that was hidden to most. Ironically, he never graduated from college. This did not stop him from finding wonderfully creative ways of writing scathing responses to the world.

As I sit here with a glass of wine in front of my computer, I am reminded of those nights when my sense of security meant knowing he was at the bottom of the stairs, thinking and typing. I miss his presence, the knowledge that he was going to make things right with the world. That he had a voice and wasn’t afraid to use it. His presence was always larger than life, his printed word seemed larger.

These days I wonder what that voice would be saying about our world. I wonder what words he would carefully choose to describe the insanity of the world we live in right now. How many pauses in his typing would happen while he would take a drink and  deliberate on the exact right word that would so subtly and yet so blatantly show his disregard for everything that is going on in Washington. We live in a time that lacks the creative use of words. There is no time to consult a thesaurus when tweeting. There is no time to read a more than 140 characters, to really delve into a subject. We are a nation of plain speakers, where WTF and OMG and ROFL have become the new way of speaking.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times that plain speaking is necessary. But I miss the wordsmith days, the days when you had to use your brain to decipher all the different meanings, innuendos and ideas that a sentence could contain. Because that requires critical thinking and reasoning, something that is sorely lacking these days.

My dad is still alive. He will be 96 in August. Before you say “Wonderful”, please remember this: he has lost most of his words. Dementia has stolen a good portion of his ability to construct a coherent sentence. Conversations are now a struggle, not only in terms of words but in terms of attention and focus. But when he is at loss for just the right word, his brain still can pull out a treasure that makes me smile. And he still can play a pretty mean game of Scrabble. Just don’t let him keep score.

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Dad and my brother Tom on dad’s 95th birthday

 

Open Studio and Sculpture Garden

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Lucy is waiting patiently for all her visitors!

Open Studio and Sculpture Garden

May 20/21

10 to 5

415 Heath Dr. Eldersburg, MD

FREE!!!

10 Reasons why I like the yearly spring open studio:
1. The gardens look fabulous. Mulching is done, weeding is, well, never done and I have planted lots of new things. There is a new moon garden (behind Lucy) due to the removal of a very old, very cool and very rotten tree in front of our house. I have spent hours at various plant nurseries around the area, perusing what’s new and what’s old and planning new designs in the gardens.
2. The grounds look great. It is the time of Green and, despite the grumbling, my husband works hard to maintain the yard in tip top shape.
3. The sculptures get some upkeep. Maintenance of the animals is an ongoing job but this is a good time of the year to make sure that they are looking gooooooooooood.
4. The studio magically gets clean. Okay, not really. I lied. Or maybe exaggerated. There are several days put aside for making this a reality. However, it is always such a good feeling to walk into the studio after the event and realize that all I have to do is PLAY!!!
5. I sense the excitement in the air. A friend of mine said today “Aren’t you excited about your open studio? I am!!!” ‘Nuff said.
6. I meet new people in the quest for ways to market this event. There are such neat people here in Carroll County and I love finding new friends who will help me promote my open studio.
7. I get excited about showing off new works. This year, I have the beginning of a really exciting project in the studio and I can’t wait for you to see it!!!
8. I get to meet such great people each day of the event. Last year I was overwhelmed at how many people showed up despite the abysmal weather. Rain and 50’s is not my idea of a perfect day but over 100 people showed up to see the sculptures. This year the weather is (so far) promising to be warmer and who knows who I will meet during the two days?
9. I often make contacts that produce more studio visits throughout the year. This year I had a visit from the high school kids from Winters Mill high school. A bus load from Carroll Lutheran stopped in on a very hot day in July. And a group of guys in Model A Fords drove in one afternoon earlier this year to spend some time with the sculptures.
10. I get to see people’s reactions to my work. Artists have egos and I am no different…I love to see the smiles and the “oohs” as people walk around the property. I am always honored when someone takes the time out of their day to come see and enjoy my creations.
I hope you can make it this year, it is such a treat to see you!
AND:
Don’t forget…you can still go to Buickster Hall in Taneytown to see some of my smaller works until June 11. See my website for more info. www.virginiasperry.com