The glass sculpture of Sibylle Peretti has all the elements of a quasi-mythic narrative. Sibylle was deeply moved seeing an old medical book of her grandfather, who was a doctor, with pictures of children suffering from various medical conditions. It inspired her to explore the pain and vulnerability of children.
Since 1996, together with her husband and artist Stephen Paul Day, Sibylle Peretti splits her time between New Orleans, USA and Cologne, Germany. The artist completed her MFA in Sculpture and Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cologne and Masters in Glass Making and Design from the State School of Glass in Zwiesel, Germany.
However, a Residency at the CGCA Wheaton Arts, New Jersey in 1992 brought her first time to the USA and commenced a new chapter in her life. Read on to explore and understand the artist and her creations.
You split your time between USA and Germany, two countries both of which boast of rich cultural heritage in their own ways. How has your art been influenced and enriched by these experiences?
I grew up in an urban industrial landscape, playing hide and seek between freight trains and Thyssen steel pipes. Then I moved to the beautiful savage wilderness of the Bavarian Forest where I studied Glass Making. Now I live in New Orleans Louisiana, which has a unique atmosphere on its own. I am sure that all these different places with their unique qualities function as a catalyst, but I never see that the work stands in a direct dialogue with the places I choose to live. But being part of these inspirational environments secure the stimulant that triggers the need to uncover something inside of me what already existed. They keep me active and excited, moving me forward and are responsible for a wide range of expressions.
Do you maintain a sketchbook to register your thoughts and events around you to have them later developed into sculptures or you depend on the spontaneity of the moment? How do you train your mind with the power of observation so that the sensations you receive from all around you could be translated into your art later on?
When I begin to work on a new project it’s also time to start a new sketchbook. Mostly to organize the ideas and emotions which are occupying my mind and to give them some kind of importance and value. The Notebook also functions as a tool to get disciplined and focused. Also since my sculptural work requires a lot of technical preparation and process, the notes are essential and prevent me from repeating mistakes. Since my work is driven by emotional aspects the pieces living also from spontaneous intuitions.
Your artwork often is a touching narrative of innocence as seen in children. When did you first feel compelled to take up this subject? Do you consciously choose glass over other mediums for your sculptures? If so, then when?
My grandfather was a doctor. One afternoon I discovered boxes of medical books from the 1930s stored in the attic of his house. I was fascinated by the illustrations I discovered. They showed children with minor or major diseases, limbs and overall beautiful colours. But what kept my strongest interest was the unique expression on their faces. Somehow I felt obligated to transform these children by removing them out of their original realities and pair them with natural elements, letting them play roles in mysterious dramas. I try to endow them with a higher dignity, which they were deprived of as medical specimens.
I choose glass over other media because the fragility and translucency of the material afford me an added dimension, an extra layer to enhance my ideas of humanities temporal existence. Glass allows me an expression deeply connected to my vision. Beneath the surface, I can produce a mysterious world, an atmosphere where connections are tenuous and brittle.
Your work is all about bringing life into an otherwise inanimate plane. Describe your sensation as your work develops in perfect synchronisation with your imagination?
It’s a long and difficult process to reach that goal since your imaginations are constantly changing. Nothing wants to stay or feel the same. Today I look at a new piece and see something very different than what I was touched by yesterday.
But this is exactly what I try to peruse. It’s the wish to create some image of life. Something that doesn’t stand still and moves the audience and me each day, in different ways.
Your talent is evident in your sculptures, mixed media artworks and sketches. Do you select the medium of expression depending on the story to be developed? Do you have any personal favourites among all your creations thus far?
In my exhibitions, I always combine 2-dimensional with sculptural works… Both mediums play the same important role for me. They support each other and enforcing the idea and vision. One of my favourite wall pieces is ‘How to Breathe under Water,’ since I was always fascinated by that ability. ‘Snow Child’, ‘Thaw’ and ‘Dorothea’s Leg’ are my favourite sculptural pieces at this time…
How satisfied have you been in the portrayals of your imagination? What are your plans for this year at a professional level?
There are so many moments in life when you feel helpless, speechless and don’t know where to begin. That’s the chance for finding another language and to make something visible what always existed, but was covered inside. I am very thankful that I am able to explore my imagination and that I search for ways to find a non-verbal language to express life.
I am in the process of starting a new body of work, part of it will be installed based containing life-size glass sculptures. The work will appear unified by colour but by closer observation reveal traces of identity. It’s comparable with the process of melting snow uncovering interior dialogues.
Sibylle Peretti likes…
Beyond my immediate passion, I love doing ‘mindless’ things, like pulling wheat in my backyard or going shopping. I love food and cooking. Spending time in my Bavarian country house together with my husband. And I love to drink wine and spend time listening to New Orleans Music and also love whipped cream.
Find more of her work at her website.