INTERVIEWS | AT HOME WITH ARTISTS
In the Studio with Sarah Perry
Where and how are you spending this time?
I amble from the studio through the house, out one door and back in through another. I walk slowly outside- moving from leaf to leaf, counting how many new tadpoles have hatched in the little cattle trough pond. I call my raven friends in for breakfast. Then back in to the studio and continue what I'm working on. In 10 years out here I am still amazed that it is never quite the same, not one sunset, not one walk. Of course there are chores especially when living rurally- like lining the entire wood edging of the house with steel struts to keep ground squirrels from eating through. And there is the business end of making a living. But by now, I have tried to structure a large portion of my life to the fueling and making of art. This is the best way I can give something that I hope will be worthwhile to the world- and that gives back to me in turn.
Can you describe the scene outside of your studio window?
Since Ed and I live on the fairly steep side of a mountain, there are two very distinct views. There is the close up view of the rock slope rising up directly in front of the house when facing North, and the opposite very expansive Southern vista. My studio window faces a granite incline that I've added plants, water dishes and feeders to so I can watch creatures all day while I work. It's tremendous fun when I remember to look up! I have seen stalking bobcats, fighting rabbits, mother quail sheltering their babies under their wings, seasonal departures and arrivals of countless birds, an occasional UPS man, deer squeezing through and even an elk.
You spend a lot of time scouring the desert for found natural objects for your sculptures: bones, feathers, owl "cough" balls, insect exoskeletons, etc. What is your favorite recent discovery?
My home is one giant Cabinet of Curiosities punctuated with peculiar obsessions. To say it is over the top would be an understatement. I've told people jokingly that I have ODD, for Obsessive Decorating Disorder, but they rarely get that it is said in jest! I have collected interesting things my entire life with sculpting in mind -and just because... Amazingly, in a house full of extreme natural wonders and vintage clusterings, the most exciting thing to me at the moment are tubes of bright watercolor paints and watercolor pencils! The smell alone of a new box of Caran D'Ache drives me absolutely wild! Who knew! So, I'm painting in the day and by nightfall, I move back into the living room and continue on a very long term commitment to a sculpture of a double tornado made of thousands of tiny glued bones (best done while being entertained by netflix, music and cats).
Though every room is rather different, the black cat "cluster collection" decorating the dining room is fairly extensive. The bedroom is the metallic star shower, and the living room is the more subdued raven/party area.
A 25th Anniversary Edition of your beautiful children's bookIf... was just issued. (Much has changed in 25 years, but its message of imagination, possibility and wonder remains, and is maybe more important now than ever). Can you tell us about what inspired the book, and whether you were thinking about how it would hold up in the future when you created it?
I was invited to do a book (by the Getty and a collector) or it wouldn't have occurred to me. It was a total surprise to everyone that it did well. There's no main character, no story line and only one complete sentence, but it's approaching 150,000 copies sold. Impossible! I think it's because it inspires kids own imaginations, is surprising and meant to be just plain fun. Not PC, not directional, not moralistic. More about joy in discovering oneself and the world. The new25th Anniversary If...issue has additional paintings but more importantly reveals hidden secrets that no one seemed to see in its first incarnation. The braille that the spider sits atop spells out a quote from Lao Tzu and the ants making up the number 8 actually consist of 88 insects. There are other discoveries in the new Readers Guide that I am so pleased to share that I never thought would be revealed. After 25 years, I've now decided to do one more book about the invisible things all around us.
Given your lifelong interest in science, geological and life cycles, and deep connection to the natural world and its creatures, what is your hope (or vision) for how life looks on the "other side" of this?
Dense populations of humans give rise to Zoonosis viruses. We will certainly survive this and will most likely become more technically savvy for it. On-line courses, more remote living and telecommunication (especially with the coming of better battery storage systems) will lead to greater populations living all over the globe. My hope is that there will be enough habitat for bobcats to find a peaceful enough place to den and raise their young.
Luna, a wild bobcat and my favorite being I've met up here to date. She would actually come over when I called to her (after many months of very patiently winning her trust).
What do you do for fun, leisure time on your property?
Three kinds of books are always on hand - deep reading (novels, short stories), philosophy/poetry - (condensed thought to ponder) and natural history with lots of images (currently, prehistoric mammals). In any population of wild animals, there are a few that are bolder than others. We find each other, and I develop a relationship with them. I love plants and tend them. I try to create a space that welcomes a diversity of creatures to come and stay. Especially Ed, my mate of 34 years. And of course, there is just opening ones eyes every morning and being able to see.
What we're reading/ watching / listening to this week: