Sunday 27 December 2015

INTERVIEW | Sherry Tipton: Dream big, and never stop seeking inspiration

Sunday, December 27, 2015 -  Sherry Tipton pleasantly surprises the viewer through her sculpture quests since, even though she did not follow academic studies she persists in the representation of the human figure. From the beginnings of her involvement with stone Tipton has been interested in the human body and in the attribution of the essential in her work. She began by creating small scale sculptures, in an effort to study the human flesh on a hard material, and then moved on to the monumental scale and the marble. This choice, as she mentions, is due to the fact that the human figure is offered more for her artistic quest. She is interested in figurative sculpture without being restricted in its sterile representation. Her works are not lifeless sculptures that aim only to transfer each form in a naturalistic way, but are mainly based on emotion.For this reason she chooses to represent the figure mainly naked and in torso, omitting the head. She does not wish for the viewer to concentrate himself on the face but on the emotion that the sculpture brings out in its whole positioning. The bodies-fragments are full of tension and sensuality, and apart from the stagnation that characterizes them, give out a sense of vibrant flesh. She is particularly fascinated by the female figure on which she elaborates in a unique way. Her story with the Greek Marble Initiative begun relatively from the start. She came along with her husband Edward (Ted for friends and family) Fleming, another renowned American sculptor, to join the Initiative at the ends of the first symposium in 2013. She is one of our most prominent members, supporters and a personally -if I may- best friends. Sherry and Ted have acquired land in Greece, in the nearby to the Initiative's premises village of Agios Andonios and are considering residing here for some time in the years to come. This interview is the offspring of ever being able to discuss with her, we both attempted to keep it brief, and we finally accomplished 7 months after our original resolution to put all these in an interview form, so us to talk about the spirit of the artist this time, and not just the spirit of things delivered by her delicate forms chiseled in Greek marble.

Interview & Text: Paris Kapralos
Field Photos: Eleni Tzotzi, Sherry TiptonParis Kapralos

- When did you realize you want to be an artist? Was it sculpture from the beginning, or your served in some other genre of art first?
It wasn't so much a question of "wanting" so much as that's just who I was, am and always will be. Many of my earliest memories are of being busy creating drawings, little sculptures, etc. and the happiness I felt while creating. I began music lessons at the age of six and was told exactly how to play every note, and while wonderful, the world of classical music is a strict one. In contrast, my art (mostly drawing) was all mine and I was very protective of  keeping it a private realm. This continued my whole life. As a result, I am completely self-taught as an artist, having only taken workshops in the last few years to learn the art of carving, specifically from Edward Fleming.

- What are the main concepts / contexts your art discusses/falls into?
My work can be described as a celebration of the human form. The beauty, versatility, variety, strength, grace and vulnerability of the form are fascinating to me. The way the body expresses and responds to whatever is going on in the mind...the way we all can read these expressions of the body, whatever our language, wherever we live...the universality of these expressions.

- We observe a tendency to leave out , abstract or diminish the presence of the head in your female sculptures yet achieving a more bodily expression; what are the semantics of these artworks? Is the a special symbolism in place?
I tend to carve either the face or the body, but rarely put them together. At this point anyway. The face tends to draw the attention so powerfully that the body becomes secondary in the expression of energy and emotion. I find it interesting to show that same energy in the form and to figure out what exactly happens in the body to express different states. How to express joy, power, defeat, an open heart, ecstasy, what do those look like ?

- Apart from the obvious, which other stages than the actual sculpting of the stone does the creation of a sculpture involves? How do you "study" your subject and what kind of preparation does it require?
This reminds me of a conversation this summer with Ted Fleming and Ciprian Hopirtean. Ciprian was talking about people asking how long it takes to realize a sculpture and that the correct answer is "my whole life". I think I can safely say that for all the sculptors here, this is something we are compelled to do and we never stop "seeing" or seeking inspiration. Maybe you could say that this "seeing" is the first step- to see and recognize what grabs you hard enough that you are willing to do all the work - to invest weeks or months making sketches and working drawings, then work your butt off in cold or rain or summer heat. When I begin a piece the first thing I look for is the line - a line with great energy. The entire success of a piece depends on this. No amount of detail, size or bravado can save a piece which lacks good line. Then, I fit the anatomy and details into this line. Working with Ted is a constant anatomy class- he has studied anatomy extensively, so I ask a lot of questions. There is always a lot of measuring to find correct proportions, usually using our own bodies (especially hands) since we're always available. And we're free.

- Do you think there are things to be gained by your contact with other artists? Is Greek Marble Initiative the first symposium you are taking part? Do you consider doing more symposiums in the future?
Absolutely, I profit a great deal from being in the company of other artists! I have done symposia in Turkey also and am open to doing others, of course. But I have to say that it will take something special to pull me away from Greek Marble Initiative. The work environment here, the marble, the support, the friends, all make this place ideal for both Ted and me.

- How familiar are the people of your country with sculpture? Do they welcome the contemporary forms of sculpture? What is the degree that the tradition of your country influences your work?
Of course there is public sculpture in the USA, but not a great deal and there isn't a well-established tradition as in Europe. Especially with stone. In general, people are usually more familiar with bronze work, but somewhat baffled by what we do. There is however, a long tradition of native carvers. Public sculpture is often contemporary. Myself, I look more back to European traditions.

- It is generally believed that contemporary art and figurative/ representational sculpture do not go along very well. What would be your answer to this criticism?
In the past there has been a definite schism between the two. But I see no reason why this can't be mended. Just  because no one has been able to envision it yet, doesn't mean it can't be done. That's why it's Art. My sense is that there is a renaissance of contemporary figurative art beginning to form.

- Do you think the role of sculpture in public places is important? What you think should be done to improve public aesthetics and arts awareness, and how sculpture can contribute to it?
Of course, it is one of the most powerful symbols of society's goals, values and priorities. Unfortunately, works are often selected by committee and often committees are not comprised of artists or people trained in art. So selections are sometimes simply the least controversial options presented- ones that don't offend anyone on the committee. This doesn't lead to the most powerful art being chosen. Re-establishing and supporting art programs in schools would go a long way to re-energizing the conversation and appreciation of art in all arenas, public and private.

- What would be your advice to a teenager who would tell you he/she wants to be a sculptor?
Study drawing , anatomy and carve marble! And dream big!

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