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Work Samples

Man Made City

Sculpture about the concept of Impermanence.
Wood, rust-stained paper, rusted steel. A piece from "Impermanence" that explores the deterioration of cities.

Impermanence-41

photography, rust, abstract
Photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard. Part of the "Impermanence" series.

Life Forms: detail

site-specific installation
Detail of one of the three venues for this site specific installation

"Vulnerability"

Steel giraffe
Steel giraffe, one of the many steel sculptures in my sculpture garden which is open to the public twice a year and by appointment.

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About Virginia

Carroll County

Virginia Sperry's picture
Virginia Sperry grew up in a house full of art, music, dance and theater. A bachelor’s degree in theater, a year dancing at the Martha Graham School in NYC and a master’s degree in dance therapy preceded Virginia’s visual arts career. Her first foray into the sculpture world started with polymer clay in 1990. Taking advantage of the malleability of the medium, she taught herself to weave colorful baskets and make miniature life-like animal sculptures and furniture. Virginia exhibited these works in... more

Impermanence

This body of sculptural and photographic work revolves around the inevitable chemical reaction that happens when iron (in the form of steel) and oxygen meet. Oxidation causes steel to change, to become something other, something less. Billions of dollars are spent each year attempting to alleviate the effects of rust on our infrastructure. My husband, a car lover, despises rust and calls it a cancer.

I began working with steel in 2003 when I signed up for a metal fabrication class at the Maryland Institute College of Art. I learned how to use a MIG welder to create life-sized steel animals that would become outdoor sculptural installations. For the next thirteen years I struggled with how to protect these sculptures from the eventual deterioration of rust. I tried powder coating my works, painting them, and using other harsh chemicals to delay the inevitable. I found that these surface treatments were ultimately unsuccessful in stopping rust. I realized that permanence was not possible. With a sense of relief, I decided to embrace oxidation instead of fight it.

I am fascinated with the visual signs of aging and impermanence, both in myself and in the world around me. Rust has become my muse and my medium. Using rusty steel, fibers, polymer clay and objects found on my farm, I create sculptures that explore my feelings about the change, decay and destruction I observe. Rust has its own life and each sculpture incorporates that life into its story.

Sometimes I see brief moments of unbelievable beauty in the transformational process of rust and the only way to capture it is with the camera. I zoom in on the textures, colors and patterns of rust that aren’t easily apparent. The design elements come together to create a sense of drama and mystery which delights me. And as I study these photographs I am inspired to use rust, paint and steel to create new ephemeral sculptures that speak to man’s desire to postpone decay and destruction.

  • "Man Made City"

    paper city
    Wood, paper, rust, steel, paint. This piece led to my wondering what architecture would look like if women had been architects since the Etruscan days. Made from Jansen's History of Art.
  • (Sub) Urban planning

    paper city
    wood, paper, rust, paint, steel. This piece continued the question that originated with Man Made City and took it one step further...what would cities and towns look like if women were urban planners?
  • "Very Tired"

    welded steel, yarn, rust. I have fibromyalgia. I deal with exhaustion on a daily basis.
  • "Dementia"

    steel baling wire, dementia
    steel baling wire, cable ties. My dad died in 2019 of dementia at the age of 97. This was my attempt to recrete visually what happens to a life when the brain starts to grow holes. It was only after I finished it that I heard about " brain tangles" that are associated with dementia.
  • "Cigarette"

    Missed media cigarette
    39" long cigarette made from pipe insulation, painted paper, rusted steel. A nod to my childhood when cigarettes were considered necessary and cool, not evil.
  • "Impermanence-22"

    photography, rust, abstract
    Photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard.
  • "Impermanence-9"

    photography, rust, abstract
    Photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard.
  • Impermanence-8

    photography, rust, abstract
    Photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard.
  • "Impermanence-41"

    photography, rust, abstract
    Photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard.
  • "Impermanence-31"

    phtography, rust, abstract
    photography printed on metal. Rust found in a local junkyard.

Life Forms: a site-specific installation

Masonry nails, yarn, wooden stools. Dimensions variable.
What are they? Sea Urchins? DNA? Thorny seeds? Something from outer space? The answer is...all of these and more. Everyone has their own opinion and they are all correct. It always amazes me how a simple shape can spur a memory or story.
I started making the pieces for Life Forms in 2018 with the idea that I would find a space to install it somewhere in the community. I knew I would never really see what it looked like in the chaos of my studio. So I started talking to the people at the Glenwood Branch of the Howard County (MD) Library to see if they were open to the idea of a public installation. They definitely were on board and I spent the next couple of months making more pieces, scoping out the space in the library that I wanted to use and figuring out the logistics. I knew it was a test, it was not an ideal spot but it was free and they ended up putting me on the cover of their quarterly magazine. Then in January of 2019, I spent an entire day trying out various installation ideas, talking to people who were curious and then taking it down. It was a long day but super fun! Many people had such great responses to my work and I was determined to find other venues for the work.
During the summer another option came open. In the spring I joined NOMA, a collective gallery space in Frederick, MD. They planned a "New Members" show for the month of August. The window area of the gallery cried out for the colorful spiky pieces, a sure bet to get people to look in the gallery windows.
Then in September, I took the installation to downtown Baltimore to Maryland Art Place (MAP). The work was one of many Maryland artists' works that had been juried into a show there. I had ample space and lots of natural light for the sculpture. Each time I have installed the sculpture, I learn something more about it and how the public reacts to it. I am hoping I can find at least one more venue to work on it before I let the individual pieces go.

  • Life Forms: detail

    site-specific installation
    Masonry nails are individually welded together to create the three-dimensional triangular form. Three or four strands of yarn are then woven around through the nails.
  • Life Forms: close up

    site-specific installation
    I love hearing what people see when they look at this installation. It's amazing how many different things these forms look like. Some of the ideas include: DNA, sea urchins, sticky seeds, something you see under a microscope, leaves, fish and something from outer space. What do you see?
  • Life Forms: Howard County Library

    site-specific installation
    Glenwood Library in Howatd County was the first site for the installation. I learned a LOT about what it needs and what I should look for when I am installing art in public spaces. The floor was horrible, the lighting non-existant and various architectural elements were super distracting.It still looked amazing and got a great reaction.
  • Life Forms: NOMA

    site-specific installation
    The second installation at NOMA in Frederick was much better. Lighting existed, although was still not totally what I wanted. The floor showed up the spikes really nicely. And it looked great from the outside as well!
  • Life Forms: MAP

    site-specific installation
    The third installation was at the Maryland Art Place in Baltimore. I am still learning a lot about this process. The yarn behind the installation is part of the installation, but I still want to develop the whole thing so that it is much more cohesive. The red line was an afterthought to ward off people from stepping on or over the installation.

Studio Shots: "Yarn"

This is an ongoing project that I started last year to see how I could discover, experiment with and document the different art materials that are currently in my studio. I used macro photography and painted with light to find a dramatic solution to transform what is usually considered a mundane material into an interesting photograph. Eventually I can see turning this into a book so I tend to see the different media as chapters.
This chapter is primarily about yarn. Normally I use yarn to create three dimensional sculptures into colorful, sometimes fuzzy, objects. I started to play with little pieces of yarn and light to explore the textures and color. During this time I was taking an photography class at the International Center for Photography in NYC. The class was about memory as prompt and the teacher, Allen Frame, was wonderful. The small pieces of yarn soon developed into abstract figures. Then I brought in leftover pieces of steel from the welding studio. Making the figures sit allowed me to intensify the story line. The stories are often from my memories of growing up in a small town in CT.

  • On the Swing

    Photography
    I had a tree swing when I was a kid. It was both calming and exhilarating. It creaked as it swung and the ground dropped away pretty dramatically so that you felt like you were swinging over a great chasm.
  • Four No Trump

    Photography
    My dad hosted a weekly bridge game. Mr. Rebillard, Mr. Bauman and Mr. Peacock were regulars who came every Tuesday to drink, smoke and play cutthroat bridge.
  • Wheelchair

    Photography
    My dad had dementia at the end of his life. I spent a bit of time in his retirement center. He wheeled himself all over the place and took great pleasure in attending any and all special groups, especially if they had music.
  • Dwindling Congregation

    Photograph
    My dad was the organist in our church and I spent a lot of time there as a kid. These days, churches in small towns in New England are struggling to fill their seats, not to mention finding ministers and funds for repairs. The steeple of our church is on the ground in the parking lot because there are not enough people in the church to donate money to repair it. While I am no longer a church goer, it still pains me to see my hometown church struggling.
  • Kaffeeklatch

    Photography
    I spent some time with a friend in my hometown last year sitting with her and talking. She and I have been through a lot over the years and sometimes our meetings are tinged with grief, worry or sickness, both mental and physical. This was one of those meetings that had none of the above and we were able to just be together and catch up on our lives.
  • Group Therapy

    Photography
    I have a masters degree in dance/movement therapy. When I was practicing, (a lifetime ago) I spent a lot of time leading therapy groups. I enjoyed recreating some of the "personalities" I met for this piece.
  • Walking the Dog?

    Photography
    I love dogs. I love that I could create a dog out of yarn.
  • On the Bus

    Photography
    That moment after you get on the bus when you have to figure out who you are going to sit next to.

Studio Shots: "Polymer Clay"

I realize that polymer clay is not often thought of as an art medium. I started playing/working with it in 1990 and have spent the last thirty years, stretching its ability and its reputation. At first, I just used polymer clay by itself, sculpting lizards, weaving baskets and creating two-dimensional art quilts. After I started welding, I introduced polymer clay as an adjunct material. When I looked at it by itself from behind the camera, it once again took on a wonderfully whimsical storytelling persona. Polymer clay really does not like to be serious.
I have not written any descriptions, because I thought it was more fun for the viewer to make up their own stories.

Great Blue Heron

In 2018 I was pleased to install a life-sized Great Blue Heron Sculpture at the main dock of Piney Run Park in Carroll County, MD. This sculpture was commissioned by the Carroll County Arts Council and the Carroll County Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. After we came up with the idea for a heron, I had the idea that the bird should be in the water and taking off. Thus, the design included the pilings that are installed in the lake, and an almost seven foot wingspan. It is made entirely from welded steel and is coated once a year to retard any rusting that occurs.

Virginia Sperry Studio and Sculpture Garden

In 2016 I opened my sculpture garden to the public. My idea was to give back to the community of Carroll County, an area that does not have access to huge amounts of art. I brought my remaining large outdoor steel sculptures back to my property and placed them around and in the gardens.

"Imagine walking amongst several life-sized steel animals set into the landscape of a six acre property in southern Carroll County, MD. Stick your tongue out at a kangaroo or drink with a giraffe. The studio and gardens are open to the public twice a year. Private guided tours for special groups are also available thoughout the year upon request. The studio is handicapped accessible. If you are unable or unwilling to walk to the animals, we can drive you around the property, weather permitting."

Each year I work on a different part of the property, developing new gardens, and adding sculptures. This year I am pleased to start work on a dream of mine, to turn a small section on the norht side of the barn into a "pocket sculpture garden" I am working with Mark Jurus of Rockin' Walls to create an awesome stone garden that will be a place for visitors to come play.

Connect with Virginia

Virginia's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.