Today, the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, unveils the simultaneously somber and captivating works of Sibylle Peretti in "Promise and Perception: The Enchanted Landscapes of Sibylle Peretti," organized by the museum's former curator of glass Diane Wright, who left recently to become curator of glass at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Wright describes Peretti as composing "poetic narratives about the relationship between humans and the natural world." Peretti herself, in a YouTube video, expands on this idea, describing her work as dealing with human failings and our inability to find harmony and unity with nature. "Promise and Perception" combines new and old works to introduce audience members to Peretti's immersive and poetic narratives while encouraging contemplation on the potential of achieving harmony with the natural world.
Sibylle Peretti was born in Germany and trained in glassmaking at the Zweisel Glass School in Bavaria before going on to study painting at the Cologne Academy of Fine Art. Her work has also won several awards, such as the 2013 United States Artist Fellowship and grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Her skills working in various media is reflected in her works. Some, like Where Rubies Go I & II (2018), a new work featured in the Chrysler exhibition, are three-dimensional cast glass while others, like the new Great Dismal Swamp (2018) or her "Silent Children" series, consist of two dimensional kiln-formed panels that are painted and engraved. By adding onto two dimensional glass surfaces, she animates a seemingly cold and hard medium and brings to life images of landscapes and children that otherwise echo still scientific illustrations or museum dioramas. In this way, Peretti, to draw on the words of Gedminas Gasparavicius in an article on Peretti's "Silent Children" series in the Summer 2005 issue of Glass, "pr[ies] open the material world and unveil[s] its underlying spiritual side."
A statement on the Chrysler museum website describes Peretti as "invit[ing] us into her dream-like world to observe a child playing on the river bank or a sleeping fox as they exist in their enchanted landscapes. Here in these magical environments, we can contemplate our connection to nature and perhaps will uncover the secrets of coexistence." But, as Gasparavicius pointed out, there is little transcendence in her work. In Peretti's work, coexistence and harmony with nature are not achieved in another realm, they exist here and now on this earth. Peretti reinforces this in her "Silent Children" series where elements of nature are superimposed onto antique images of children originally photographed to illustrate medical conditions: a flower grows from a young boy's ear in Untitled #3, a child is immersed in what looks like a bubbling, underwater landscape in Dew II.
"Peretti...creates space for contemplation where we can uncover the secrets of coexistence," Wright wrote in her prepared statement. These are secrets that she draws us into in works like Great Dismal Swamp, featured in the Chrysler Museum exhibit, where, according to Wright, "the soft color palette and milky translucence of the opaline glass evoke a sense of hope and possibility" while "long strands of silvery pearls...summon feelings of desire and longing, and symbolize a promise to forever connect us to these enchanted landscapes." Peretti's work conveys the sense that harmony and connection with nature are possible if we open ourselves to it and to her immersive worlds. This is perhaps the promise of perception.
IF YOU GO:
"Promise and Perception: The Enchanted Landscapes of Sibylle Peretti"
March 15, 2018 - September 9, 2018
Chrysler Museum of Art
1 Memorial Place
Norfolk, VA 23510
Tel: (757) 664-6200