American Eccentricities-An Artist’s Talk with Sculptor Sarah Peters
March 2 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm| Free
On Saturday, March 2 at 2:00 p.m. in the Paresky Wing of the Bennington Museum, sculptor Sarah Peters discusses her studio practice in relationship to the history of American sculpture and representative objects in Bennington Museum’s vast collection. Join us to see what objects Peters has been researching in the Museum’s collection as the basis for her talk and for a small, special installation inside the museum. Deeply engaged in traditional sculptural techniques, the artist has spent over a decade working in wax, clay, and bronze. Forming figurative objects, often near life-size heads and busts, Peters merges ancient, modern and contemporary references with respect and irreverence, both honoring and questioning conventions of the past.
Peters’ research at the Museum extends from the Usdan Gallery exhibition The Body Stops Here: Keiko Narahashi and Sarah Peters on view in the Usdan Gallery February 26 through March 30.
About the Artist
Sarah Peters (b. 1973) lives and works in Queens, NY. She was educated at Virginia Commonwealth University (MFA), The University of Pennsylvania (BFA), and The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Certificate). The artist is a recipient of awards and residencies from John Michael Kohler, WI and New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), NY (2011); The Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA (2010); and The Sharpe-Wallentas Studio Program, Brooklyn, NY (2008). Solo and two-person exhibitions include Van Doren Waxter Gallery (2018), Bennington College, Bennington, VT (2019); Howards Gallery, Athens, GA (2019); Halsey McKay Gallery, South Hampton, NY (2017); Eleven Rivington, New York (2015); 4 AM, New York (2015); Asya Geisberg, NY (2014); Edward Winkleman Gallery, NY (2007,2010); and John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY (2013). Group exhibitions include Objects Like Us, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart and David Adamo (2018); Galerie Eva Presenhuber, New York, NY (2019); Perrotin Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (2019) and Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI (2017), among others. Her work has been reviewed and featured in publications such as The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, and The Brooklyn Rail.
My interest in American art began while attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, America’s first art museum and school. I was drawn to the Museum’s early American sculpture collection, especially the work of William Rush, who was designated the first European-American sculptor. Rush was a carver of ships’ figureheads before he fashioned himself into a classical (ish) sculptor. He borrows the tropes of classical art—the drapery and the serious subject matter—but his work is a departure from his inspiration: proportions are miscalculated, alignments are incorrect, the drapery does not follow the laws of gravity. Yet all these oddities add up to something more special and beautiful than his original intention, something characteristically American.
The American ingenuity and irrepressible imagination found in Rush’s sculpture is also on display in the Bennington Museum collection. There is a hastily assembled scrap metal ship by “The Captain,” made to trade for alcohol; a slate fan with meticulous lacy detail; miniature carved baskets, tiny wood pliers and handmade dolls and doll furniture. There is also a scrimshaw drawing of a young girl and boy, possibly the children of the carver, and tree fungus carvings made with a penknife of idyllic country landscapes. Alongside these vernacular objects are gorgeous examples of American neo-classical sculpture, as well as narrative genre sculptures depicting, for example, a nervous couple with a dog soliciting their Parson (who has a cat).
All these marvelous objects reflect the human desire to depict the world and the people around us. Some are made out of personal necessity, and have an urgent quality, while others are meticulously planned, formally rigorous, and meant for contemplation. The results are specific and individual, and are the tangible evidence of an intention to create something special – the wish to get it “right.”