Marianna Peragallo Interview - The Hopper Prize

Marianna Peragallo

Marianna Peragallo on early inspirations, the fragility of life, endless curiosity, playful self-portraits, & love as a radical act rooted in strength and mutual support.

How did you get into making art?

I have always liked making things. I spent lots of time drawing and sculpting as a kid. This kind of solitary activity suited me because my family moved around a lot and I was very shy. I stopped making things in middle school and started again in high school shortly after the death of two very close friends. For better or for worse, I learned that life is really fragile at a young age. I wanted to spend mine doing something I cared about. I didn’t know I could be an artist or what that could look like until my early 20’s. I started working for some established artists during college and was deeply inspired by their dedication and generosity. The artists I know and love are endlessly curious and wear many hats. They are educators, entrepreneurs, collaborators, culture producers, parents, etc, in addition to being makers. I love that versatility and level of engagement. My definition of art-making and being an artist has evolved over the years. Luckily, it continues to be what I love doing. In terms of the work I make, the evolution has been organic and intuitive. When I was a kid, I loved making small, intricate sculptures out of polymer clay. I mostly made toys and food for my stuffed animals. I was reacquainted with polymer clay 3 or 4 years ago and have been using it in my work ever since. It brings me so much joy to make sculptures, and they always start small and intimate.

What are you currently working on?

My recent sculptures are playful self-portraits that embody the cross-sections of love, labor, endurance, and support. I think of these sculptures as anthropomorphic objects that are learning what love and support can look like. They have mutated into hybrid body-text-objects. This malleability allows them to physically embody a single loving gesture in a surreal, humorous, and slightly overbearing way.

Love is a radical act rooted in strength and mutual support.

Marianna Peragallo

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

This body of work began when I was trying to re-learn and redefine love for myself. I started thinking about love more critically and realized that it is often misrepresented as being fluff. It is thought of as sentimental, passive, or, worse, manipulative. This mischaracterization underlies the abuses of power and oppression that plague us. Love is a radical act rooted in strength and mutual support. It is something that needs to be learned and taught. With this in mind, I started making sculptures that capture the playful quality of children’s books and childhood where we first (mis)learn about love.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I work on individual sculptures that are part of a broader idea. More recently, I have been reimagining common household objects such as a broom and dustpan, light fixture, mirror, or staircase. These objects have important jobs in our spaces that can be taken for granted despite being essential.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Some studio days involve making art and others are spent doing not-so-sexy tasks like applying for opportunities, writing emails, updating my website, etc. I get my hands in clay at least a few times a week. If I have a full studio day, I try to dedicate several hours of that day to working on a sculpture by sculpting, sanding, or painting.

Who are your favorite artists?

This is always a hard question for me because I love so many artists from different times in history. My favorites are a moving target. I love the work of Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, Agnes Martin, Hilma Af Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Franz West, Belkis Ayon, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Rico Gatson, Marilyn Minter, Zoe Strauss, Jimmy Desana, David Shrigley, Hiba Schahbaz, Amy Sillman, Catherine Opie, Carrie May Weems, Genesis Belanger, Tala Madani, and many others. My list is all over the place, but these artists are all disruptors. I feel a deep tug in my chest every time I look at their art.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I mostly discover new artists by visiting galleries and museums or through artist friends. Instagram has been an interesting resource too.

Marianna Peragallo is an artist based in New York who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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