I first became aware of Wanda Peracy’s work through a show at the Duluth Art Institute approximately two years ago. This spring, despite a very busy schedule, she consented to participating in this interview.
EN: When did you first take an interest in the arts?
WP: Probably in high school when I took a class on Rembrandt. I also remember a great satisfaction from carving a hippo out of orange wax in high school. It wasn’t until I went to college that I thought of art as a lifestyle or a career.
EN: What prompted you to get your MFA?
WP: After I earned my BFA I spent a year teaching dance at Blue Water Dance and trying to find a job. After a year of searching it was clear that I needed a higher degree, I saw the MFA as a driver’s license in the field of art. After arriving and going through my first year of grad school it became an intense journey into the history of sculpture and video/film arts.“
WP: In grad school I sought after a process or a deliberate set of rules that would guide my art making process. Due to post modernism’s dismantling of the standard set of artistic rules artists used to make their work, it became necessary for each artist to create their own guidelines. The guidelines I developed became an art series called “Art as Life”. This series started with a physical process of transforming my oil paintings, literally dismantling them strand by strand, hand shredding them and then restructuring them into sculpture. In the end, this series developed a set of rules that I would follow to allow my art to fit the lifestyle and value choices that I live by. I created a life-sized game board that included my rules of what to make and expect from art, which included the following text:
THE GAME OF ART
OBJECTIVE: Create art that is not in conflict with how one lives, how one thinks, who one is and the reality in which one lives.
In my life environmental concerns were increasingly becoming the foundation of how I lived and what I thought about and what time of changes I wanted to make in my life. After some deep thought about what I could commit to as a process for making art, oil painting didn’t seem to feed me due to it’s toxic nature. I still loved it and what it could produce and feed me spiritually but, the conflict was too great and I started experimenting in how I could transform my work process and my life process to fit this new creed.
As I continue examining ways to make art that fit my desires for transformation, I am working on Earthworks as a way to integrate my life and my art.
EN: Conceptual art and minimalism seemed like endpoints of a history that began with Duchamp's readymades. Now it seems like creative expression has exploded into whole new territories. What do you see happening in the arts as we begin the second decade of the 21st century?
EN: 2012 is the hundred-year anniversary of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. Who are your heroes in the art scene today?
WP: Roman Signer – beautiful simplicity that is full of depth and questions the absurdity of the pace of the technical being.
Anne Arden McDonald – the body in the landscape.
Wolfgang Laib – spiritual guest in the landscape.
Francesca Woodman – innocent playfulness.
Anna Mendieta – use of the body in the landscape.
Robert and Shanna ParkeHarrison – I love their commitment to a sense of ecological heroism.
EN: What are some of your other sources of inspiration?
WP: Plant life underground has been my main study in the past 7 years as I grew my garden and it is now entering my art-work. I do foresee it becoming the focus of my work and I move toward documenting symbiotic landscapes. The title of my new series is ‘symbiotic landscape’, I also have a ‘dreamscape’ series in the works that is heavily influenced by my time in the natural world.
EdNote: Come back for Part II tomorrow.
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Part One of this interview originally appeared in The Reader.