BEVERLY PENN: Perpendicular to the Force of Gravity



to the

Force of Gravity

Saturday, October 21, 2017


6 to 8 pm


New Works by Beverly Penn

to Open October 21

at William Campbell Contemporary Art


October 5, 2017-

Perpendicular to the Force of Gravity, an exhibition of new cast bronze sculptures by Beverly Penn, will be on display October 21 through November 25 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. The gallery will host an opening reception Saturday, October 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The exhibition-her first solo show at the gallery-will include Penn's signature metal constructions generated from botanical forms and exploring nature's innate drive to propagate, even as humankind seeks to categorize, manipulate, and control it. A suite of six botanical monoprints, the genesis of this latest body of work, will accompany the new sculptures.

"Our relationship with the natural world is increasingly in turmoil," says Penn. Her plant-based bronzes reflect this idea in their precise, idealized patterns and patinas that cleanly fill a prescribed space, all the while harboring a latent energy.

Penn's sculptures hang on the wall like vertical landscapes, visually mapping the space they occupy and presenting the viewer with a complex array of ornate lines and textures that call attention to the beauty of natural forms, both inherent and manipulated. The artist describes their meandering patterns as analogous to the rhizomatic structures present in the weeds and other invasive plants informing her work. Like these underground growth systems, the bronze leaves and tendrils reach out in all directions: expansive, multiaxial, and perpendicular to gravity. The resultant sprawl evokes a controlled chaos-nonlinear, complex pathways meticulously arranged and contorted to serve a specific aesthetic purpose.

"Although the castings are incredibly lifelike, the configurations are nothing like what one might encounter in nature," Penn says of her latest work. If fact, it conjures a sense of the absurd, commingling the organic with the industrial to echo the tenuous nature of a world that hangs in the balance. She strives to point out how we remain inextricably connected to and interdependent on our environment-even as we at once revere and disrupt it. In the wake of our actions, nature becomes plastic and unrecognizable, eventually transforming into what she calls a manufactured aesthetic.

Penn employs a centrifugal casting process, which uses the force of intense outward motion to spin bronze into the negative space remaining after the plants disintegrate during firing.

Often found in the jewelry industry, this method is most effective for the small pieces she works with, as it retains the intricate details in every component, while also giving the artist broad range to configure the final sculpture. Penn designs as she goes, soldering individual plant segments together only after responding to each on its own. "Each one has a different mark that it makes and a different line that it forms," she says.

Ultimately, Penn's bronzes become a type of memorial to the lost plant-and to the wider concerns of climate change and the memory of such natural elements already lost. Penn says, "The notion of a memorial, especially as it refers to loss and remembrance, is significant in times of irreversible climate change and extinction. Yet a memorial also links us to desire so it is equally hopeful, because it is in the idealized natural spaces that we cultivate in our imagination and in our world that our best intentions thrive, flourish, and proliferate."


For more than twenty years,

award-winning Austin artist

Beverly Penn has exhibited

her cast bronze sculptures extensively, in galleries, museums, and public settings. Her pieces have appeared in venues across Texas, in Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio, and throughout the United States in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Santa Fe, and Washington, D.C., among many others.

Penn's work has appeared in such publications as Art in America, Artlies, Metalsmith, the New Art Examiner, Sculpture magazine, the New Orleans Art Review. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy; a Connemara Conservancy Artist Grant; grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts; and a Fulbright Fellowship in Barcelona, Spain. The Texas Legislature and Texas Commission on the Arts recently named Penn the State of Texas 3D Artist for 2017.

Penn's sculptures are included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Austin Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. She has been commissioned for several public art projects, including Unity in Diversity in Las Cruces, New Mexico; the Community Core Sample Project and the Threshold Project with Steve Wiman in Austin; and the Carté Hilton Hotel in San Diego.

Beverly Penn earned her MFA from the State University of New York at New Paltz, her MA from New Mexico State University, and her BFA from the University of Texas at El Paso. She currently serves as a tenured professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University in San Marcos.


Founded in 1974 by William and Pam Campbell, William Campbell Contemporary Art exhibits high-quality contemporary art in a variety of media, including paintings, works on paper, mixed-media constructions, photography, prints, ceramics, and sculpture. By exhibiting nationally recognized artists, along with new and emerging talent, the gallery aims to nurture an awareness and appreciation of the exciting diversity found in contemporary art.