Beverly Pepper: A Curator’s Perspective

Turning steel into works of art, Beverly Pepper’s talents have awed Grand Rapids this summer during the exhibition Beverly Pepper: Palingenesis 1962-2012, on display until August 26. Heidi Holst, Curator of Arts Education, explains why Pepper’s work is unique and sought after.

“This exhibition is unique because it is set up chronologically to display Pepper’s earlier pieces in metal starting from the 1962 Spoleto exhibition to her latest works,” Holst said. She also said that the monumental size of the pieces add to the distinction of the exhibition.

Holst’s favorite pieces of Pepper’s work are her polished stainless-steel pieces. She said she loves their reflective qualities.

“You can see yourself and the surroundings of these pieces, allowing you to feel like a part of them both.”

In our gallery, Quadro Vuoto (far left) and Excathedra (front) by Beverly Pepper.

Beverly Pepper’s earlier work was done mostly using basic welding techniques. She then began exploring other methods including heating up rods to create a more expressive rough edge, Holst explained.

To compliment the exhibition, Holst created several programs including a themed walk through the Sculpture Park, a steel cutting demonstration and an opportunity to gain perspectives of Pepper’s work from select Meijer Gardens staff.

On the walk through the Sculpture Park, Holst provided guests with further insight into other female sculptors on Meijer Gardens’ 30+ acres.

During the steel cutting demonstration, guests were able to see a process similar to Pepper’s, as Assistant Conservator and Sculptor Andrew Kline cut steel using an oxygen/acetylene torch and prepared the steel for welding.

Steel cutting demonstration with Assistant Conservator Andrew Kline.

“Steel is a messy, hot, dirty, smelly and dangerous material to work with,” Holst said. “The demonstration allowed guests to feel a greater appreciation of Pepper’s work through seeing the difficulty of manipulating steel.”

The interactive opportunity to gain and share perspectives of Pepper’s work with Meijer Gardens staff members provided guests with personal interpretations of sculpture, allowing many to view sculpture in a new light. These programs provided a new understanding to Pepper’s work.

As the summer winds down, so does Beverly Pepper’s exhibition Palingenesis 1962-2012. The exhibition is open until August 26, so be sure to check out these steel masterpieces before it ends next week.

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