Perpendicular to the Force of Gravity, an exhibition of new cast bronze
sculptures by Beverly Penn, will be on display October 21 through November 25
at William Campbell Contemporary Art. The gallery will host an opening
reception Saturday, October 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The exhibition-her
first solo show at the gallery-will include Penn's signature metal
constructions generated from botanical forms and exploring nature's innate
drive to propagate, even as humankind seeks to categorize, manipulate, and
control it. A suite of six botanical monoprints, the genesis of this latest
body of work, will accompany the new sculptures.
"Our relationship with the natural world is increasingly in turmoil," says
Penn. Her plant-based bronzes reflect this idea in their precise, idealized
patterns and patinas that cleanly fill a prescribed space, all the while
harboring a latent energy.
Penn's sculptures hang on the wall like vertical landscapes, visually mapping
the space they occupy and presenting the viewer with a complex array of ornate
lines and textures that call attention to the beauty of natural forms, both
inherent and manipulated. The artist describes their meandering patterns as
analogous to the rhizomatic structures present in the weeds and other invasive
plants informing her work. Like these underground growth systems, the bronze
leaves and tendrils reach out in all directions: expansive, multiaxial, and
perpendicular to gravity. The resultant sprawl evokes a controlled
chaos-nonlinear, complex pathways meticulously arranged and contorted to
serve a specific aesthetic purpose.
"Although the castings are incredibly lifelike, the configurations are nothing
like what one might encounter in nature," Penn says of her latest work. If fact,
it conjures a sense of the absurd, commingling the organic with the industrial
to echo the tenuous nature of a world that hangs in the balance. She strives to
point out how we remain inextricably connected to and interdependent on our
environment-even as we at once revere and disrupt it. In the wake of our
actions, nature becomes plastic and unrecognizable, eventually transforming
into what she calls a manufactured aesthetic.
Penn employs a centrifugal casting process, which uses the force of intense
outward motion to spin bronze into the negative space remaining after the
plants disintegrate during firing.
Often found in the jewelry industry, this method is most effective for the
small pieces she works with, as it retains the intricate details in every
component, while also giving the artist broad range to configure the final
sculpture. Penn designs as she goes, soldering individual plant segments
together only after responding to each on its own. "Each one has a different
mark that it makes and a different line that it forms," she says.
Ultimately, Penn's bronzes become a type of memorial to the lost plant-and to
the wider concerns of climate change and the memory of such natural elements
already lost. Penn says, "The notion of a memorial, especially as it refers
to loss and remembrance, is significant in times of irreversible climate
change and extinction. Yet a memorial also links us to desire so it is equally
hopeful, because it is in the idealized natural spaces that we cultivate in
our imagination and in our world that our best intentions thrive, flourish,
ABOUT THE ARTIST
For more than twenty years, award-winning Austin artist Beverly Penn has
exhibited her cast bronze sculptures extensively, in galleries, museums, and
public settings. Her pieces have appeared in venues across Texas, in Arlington,
Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio, and throughout
the United States in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Memphis, Miami,
New Orleans, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Santa Fe, and Washington, D.C., among many
Penn's work has appeared in such publications as Art in America, Artlies,
Metalsmith, the New Art Examiner, Sculpture magazine, the New Orleans Art Review.
She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including a Rockefeller Foundation
residency in Bellagio, Italy; a Connemara Conservancy Artist Grant; grants from
the Texas Commission on the Arts; and a Fulbright Fellowship in Barcelona, Spain.
The Texas Legislature and Texas Commission on the Arts recently named Penn the
State of Texas 3D Artist for 2017.
Penn's sculptures are included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum
in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Austin Museum of Art, the
El Paso Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in
Washington, D.C. She has been commissioned for several public art projects,
including Unity in Diversity in Las Cruces, New Mexico; the Community Core
Sample Project and the Threshold Project with Steve Wiman in Austin; and the
Carté Hilton Hotel in San Diego.
Beverly Penn earned her MFA from the State University of New York at New Paltz,
her MA from New Mexico State University, and her BFA from the University of Texas
at El Paso. She currently serves as a tenured professor in the School of Art
and Design at Texas State University in San Marcos.