OCT. 6, 2019 - MAR. 8, 2020
Keeler & Gasparrini Galleries
The Metal Museum’s 2019 Master Metalsmith is Sarah Perkins. With an artistic career that spans more than three decades, Sarah is best known for her hand-formed and enameled metal vessels and containers. She has shown artwork in the United States, India, Canada, Europe, Korea, and Taiwan, participating in over 300 competitive and invitational exhibitions. Perkins is now Professor Emerita at Missouri State University (Springfield, MO), where she taught from 1994 to 2017.
Essays by Bernard N. Jazzar and Harold B. Nelson
Photography by Houston Cofield and Tom Davis
Design by Matt Flowers
“Sarah Perkins is among the leading voices in the contemporary enamels field. Her hand-raised hollowware forms, covered in rich enamel color and vivid surface detail, participate in a long tradition of thoughtfully conceived, painstakingly crafted objects. However, through a commitment to experimentation and a gentle defiance of her medium’s most revered practices, she has created a distinctive body of work characterized by power, beauty, and subtly layered allusions that are both personal and universal.
Equally well-versed in enameling and metalwork, Perkins is committed to the primacy of the maker’s hand. Beautifully proportioned and inventively enameled, her pieces are assertively handcrafted. As she has stated, ‘In a world of laser cutters and CAD CAM, I am insistent on the value of the hand. Bowls are slightly asymmetrical, piercings have obvious drill holes, and the enamel generally has a non-glossy surface. All these things contribute to the warmth and enticement of the pieces.’[i] For Perkins, these ‘flaws,’ humanize her work, making it all the more accessible. As she described in a 2003 article, ‘I keep hammering after the metal is work-hardened, trying to distress it and get it to crack at the top…That’s considered a mistake when you’re learning to smith. Although I’m not a total rebel, I like to break the rules lightly.’[ii] Examples of such rule breaking occur throughout her work from the irregular creases and folds in the walls of her early vessels to the roughed-up and under-fired surface of the enamel. This embrace of imperfection, balanced by an astute command of metalsmithing and enameling techniques, gives her work its substance, depth, and character.
Trained in metals, Perkins first studied enameling in 1985 in a workshop taught by Jamie Bennett at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN). Since that time, she has pursued her dual interests in glass and metal in one integrated practice. As she has stated, ‘As a maker of hollowware, I use properties of the metal: the plasticity, the permanence, and the dimensionality. As an enameler, I use properties of the glass: the preciousness, the fragility, and the color. In my work, these properties function together to make a whole, with the two materials complementing and completing one another, rather than one being visually more important than the other.’”[iii]
-Hal Nelson and Bernard Jazzar, excerpt from “Resonant Form: Unity of Glass and Metal in the Enamels of Sarah Perkins”
[i] Sarah Perkins, undated statement, courtesy of the artist.
[ii] Glen R. Brown, “A Fulfilling Absence: The Enamelware of Sarah Perkins,” Metalsmith 23 no. 2 (Spring 2003): 36
[iii] Sarah Perkins, artist’s statement published in “Exhibition in Print 2003,” Metalsmith 23 (Exhibition in Print, 2003): 50.