Callan Contemporary
Cancel request
Sibylle Peretti
"Review: Sibylle Peretti:It Was Such A Beautiful Promise"

Enigmatic Narratives
By, Kathy Rodriguez



"Review: Sibylle Peretti's It Was A Beautiful Promise at Callan Contemporary" Gambit
June 4th, 2017

by, Eric Bookhardt

In ancient China they protected the wearer from dragons, but in Victorian England they were worn by mourning widows as symbols of tears. As subtle as moonlight, pearls can be calming, but their allure can make covetous people crazy. In this show Sibylle Peretti alludes to their transcendental charisma to evoke the mysteries of the natural world only, instead of actual pearls, these works are fashioned from a unique type of glass that mimics moonlight's elusive subtlety by shifting color in response to different settings and light sources -- so her usual subjects, misty landscapes with wild creatures and seemingly feral children, appear with a luminous effects that, along with silvery or crystalline highlights, accentuate their dreamlike aura.

A Nola-based native of Bavaria who has long maintained a second studio in Cologne, Germany, Peretti reflects that nation's ancient legacy of nature mysticism, a sensibility in which both children and wild creatures are seen as imbued with a kind of innocent wisdom that the adult world must respect. In a dreamy wall panel, Sophie, left, a young girl seems to be floating in magical mists, a mythic realm of enchanted children and mythic beasts where strands of pearls appear as if suspended in time and space. Related themes appear in The Land Behind, above, and in Silver Flowers, where a feral child lies in a field of magical silvery blossoms, an effect enhanced by the eerily color shifting glass that responds rather remarkably to changes in the ambient light. In Wintering, a fox appears like an apparition in a pale and snowy woods where silvery tree limbs embody the mythic aura of undisturbed wild places.

But the most emblematic work of all may be Urban Foxes, top, a cast glass sculpture in which two foxes appear intertwined like sleeping cats with a cluster of crystals nestled in the hollow between their bodies -- a scene that recalls the verses of Rainer Maria Rilke who once wrote of such creatures, “Where we see the future, it sees all time / and itself within all time, forever healed.” ~Bookhardt / It Was Such a Beautiful Promise: New Work by Sibylle Peretti, Through June 25, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518.

"Review: Sibylle Peretti: 'It Was Such A Beautiful Promise,' Urban Glass Magazine

April 2017

Hailey Clark

OPENING: Sibylle Peretti Plumbs Intricate Relationships In Nature With New Body Of Work

Sibylle Peretti a German-born artist who renders nature-inspired dreamscape will unveil a new body of work at her upcoming exhibition entitled "It Was Such a Beautiful Promise," where she explores a world of complex relationships and issues of survival. Exhibiting at Callan Contemporary in New Orleans from May 4 to June 25, 2017, Peretti’s glass panels are a continuation of her previous work, The Land Behind, where she explored the affects imagination has on creating space. Compared to her earlier work, which exhibits similar themes, the glass artist evolves her use of external symbols, (i.e., bees, vegetation, and crystals) to a different found object: pearls.

Throughout history, pearls have been passed down through generations as an heirloom. The precious bead is more than a jewelry piece to Peretti, forming a symbol of “hope, healing, and resolution” she said in her prepared statement. "In my exhibition 'It was such a beautiful promise' animals and humans are placed into these landscapes in where they share the desire to collect and gather pearls," Peretti explained in an email exchange with the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet. "United in this mission they search for the promise of survival, purity, wealth and beauty which is embodied in the pearls. The work reflects on the fragile balance between weight, destruction and regrows and hope."

Desire is not the only emotive value to this new body of work. In her depictions of wildlife, pearls are rendered to look like food, shelter, or collectors items (like a squirrel with an acorn.) Gold, black, and blue beads do not take over the subdued images, but enhances the notion of symbiotic relationships between objects and individuals. Children are still a large theme in this collection of work and Peretti continues to explore connections between innocence and experience, as well as, vulnerability and strength in both children and animals. "The animals I use in this show belong to the species that utilize human dominated ecosystems," Peretti said. "They present the closest wildlife to us and we not only share the environment, but also same behavior and fate."

Peretti’s work is characteristically subdued and the addition of color was used to add another layer. The hues were created using dichroic techniques, where certain types of glass were incorporated to promote different colors depending on direction and light source. By adding this prismatic effect to her work, the artist created what she calls “magical matter” which will hopefully inspire viewers to enter into her dreamscape. “I always like to create places of wonder and mystery where everything is possible,” Peretti said.

This combination of beauty, adornment and yearning caters to Peretti’s complex vision of nature. Though glass, the artist is prompting viewers to look at their own relationship with nature through a different lens—like dreams and fairytales, anything is possible in the world of imagination.

Sibylle Peretti
"It Was Such a Beautiful Promise"
Opening May 4, 2017 - Closing June 25, 2017
Callan Contemporary
518 Julia Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: 504.525.0518
"Review: I Search in Snow," Gambit
April 14, 2014

D. Eric Bookhardt on new sculpture by Sibylle Peretti at Callan Contemporary.

The mysterious figurative glass sculptures in Sibylle Peretti's I Search in Snow expo at Callan Contemporary feature young children who seem far removed from the playfully animated kids we normally encounter. As otherworldly as creatures in myths and fairy tales, Peretti's children exist in dreamlike settings they share with sinuous plants and small animals. Deftly rendered in a pale, soft palette of translucent white and magenta kiln-formed glass, they evoke the fantastical inner life we experienced when we were very young, or perhaps the echoes of that magically boundless time that may reappear in our dreams. For Peretti, childhood and dreams are part of nature, and her work has long been inspired by the legends of "feral children" who lived outside human society, a phenomenon that melds modern notions of alienation and the traditional nature mysticism of Peretti's native Germany. Whatever the reason, her kids have the trancelike quality associated with hermits who communicate with wild animals, as we see in To Know a Hawk, where a near-catatonic boy exchanges meaningful gazes with a hawk while other birds seem to cluster on his chest and shoulders.

In Snowchild (pictured), a young girl sleeps as hawks gather around her, and here the child is inseparable from the wild world. Both works are crafted from white kiln-forged glass that looks almost like Carrera marble, giving them a classical aura that contrasts with their psychological vibe. In the wall pieces, children often appear connected to each other by sinuous magenta vines or silver branches, visual effects that reach their most elaborate fruition in her magical bell jar series. In White Hawk 3, two hawks appear under a grapelike cluster of icy clear glass, and only from certain angles can a child's face be seen in the dome's mirrored rear surfaces. In these and other works, Peretti's children suggest near-mythical creatures whose profound silences enable connections with wild nature and its equivalents in the deep recesses of the poetic imagination.

"Human Nature: A Conversation with Sibylle Peretti," Artvoices
October 2009

By Chris Herbeck

"Review: Sibylle Peretti and Mixed Media Works," Gambit
November 2, 2009

By D. Eric Bookhardt

Intimate. Beautiful. Disturbing. Such are the adjectives applied to the work of Sibylle Peretti, whose visions of children convey a quietly mysterious otherworld. Like a parallel universe, Peretti-world is part dream and part fairy tale, but it also resonates with a certain reality we sense without knowing exactly what it is, at least not at first.


Peretti resides most of the year in New Orleans but keeps an apartment in Cologne, in her native Germany, and has long been inspired by children who live with circumstances that cause them to establish their own unique relationships with the world, especially the natural world of the feral children who inspired her current body of work. While the idea of children raised by wolves and wild creatures is hardly new, occurring often in mythologies, Peretti's approach is more psychological, invoking perhaps the prehistory of human consciousness — those deeply subconscious dreams or memories of a more mystical union with nature that's latent within all of us.


The works on view are a mixture of freestanding porcelain sculptures, etched translucent wall panels, and glass, raindrop-shaped wall sculptures, all depicting children seemingly in a state of suspended animation if not repose. Otherworldly and dreamlike, their presence is somnambulistic, charismatically quiescent as they relate to each other or to birds, vines and brambles, the flora and fauna of the natural landscape. Like her earlier series of "silent children," inspired by the haunting expressions seen in photographs of youngsters in antique German medical texts, they explore the hidden side of childhood, a complex, contemplative world of dreams, imaginings and gestures. Of the earlier series, Peretti said, "They represent innocence, but also a kind of knowing, yet they cannot really say what they know so they speak their own wordless language." Much the same might be said of these feral children, whose silence hints at the delicate relationship between human civilization and the remaining wildness that lingers around us and within us.

"Steven Paul Day and Sibylle Peretti," Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center
March 4, 2008

By Robin Rice

Sibylle Peretti and Stephen Day, Fall 2004 Resident Fellows collaborating at the Creative Glass Center of America, are successful solo artists who pursue an on-going pas de deux. Each exhibits more often individually and has a reputation initiated before the collaboration began over a decade ago.

At times, especially when seen together, similarities in some of their work makes it difficult to determine the author (Occasional individual pieces are co-authored.), but usually there are identifiable differences. Day works more often in non-glass materials including cast bronze, which he studied before glass. He is more likely to combine a number of discreet elements in a single piece. Though Peretti also uses materials other than glass, her work appears more homogeneous. She often works from or with old photographs and statues of children. Much of Peretti’s work is layered so one looks through these strata to apprehend the whole. Day’s tends to be stacked; so one views a column composed of distinct parts, sometimes joined in a seemingly precarious manner. Each approach can effectively suggest narrative.

Both artists have a keen sense of the archetypal, quasi-mythic elements which unite lives across time and geography. They celebrate fairytales and circus-like fantasy. In spite of very different backgrounds of study, they share certain conventions and techniques of art-making. Both, for example, often cast busts directly from historical models.

This is their third residency at Wheaton Village. During the first, back in 1992, which Day described as “pivotal,” they made a pair of Siamese twins which reflected their own sense of similarity. They worked in clay (later cast), one on each half of the siblings. They then joined them. “They are unique,” Peretti says. “We never did it again.”

In Peretti’s signature paired busts of children cast in pale milky glass, one seems to whisper in the other’s ear. Peretti frequently works with pairs: brother and sister or twins. The whispering busts, though, are separate objects and our recognition that they don’t necessarily belong together or, at least, in close proximity, adds a frisson of anguish. Peretti likes to rearrange their positions. She says. “I want to make the figures more natural looking so they’re really alive.” She claims that all her figurative pieces “are independent of me. They make their own way. I put real personalities in them. It’s more fun that way.” She also acknowledges that it would be hard to part with them if she didn’t set a limitation on the relationship.

The significance of human pairs is as layered as Peretti’s construction. Do images of siblings communicating along a beaded thread or of joined heads suggest an attenuation or fragility of communication or a suffocating excess of intimacy? Are these twinned entities really mirrors of the self with its inner dialogue and mysteries. Peretti takes much of her imagery from old medical illustrations. Reviewers remark on the level of human portraiture in these scientific sources, a representation of personality which would be eliminated from contemporary scientific materials. Peretti has said she restores dignity to these objects of the clinical gaze.
“Her work has always been much darker than mine,” Day maintains. “If it looks sad, it’s probably Peretti; If it looks more historical, it’s probably me.”

Peretti agrees, saying, “I always like to play with something of beauty and pain,” but, she suggests these tendencies were stronger in her early work. “When you’re young, you think much more about the edge, death, or morbid ideas.”

While Peretti “really puts personality” into her cast heads, Day’s, though similarly working from historic reproductions or authentic antiques (usually adults rather than children), approaches these objects as objects, drawing attention to the metaphorical armature of cultural convention which determines their form. Even the almost universal practice of making heads detached from bodies suggests a pervasive belief that the uniqueness of the individual resides in the brain and is most fully expressed on the countenance.

Day’s cast busts exploit the aesthetic tropes of different eras. Bubbles and other flaws which can result from the casting process are retained to give some pieces the air of obvious—perhaps badly mass-produced products. Is it a commentary on cultural production or a broader reflection of the intrinsic flaws in human nature?

Day’s pastiches of historic kitsch again call forth a more formal response to shapes, colors, materials and textures, where Peretti’s work shows tenderness toward the humanity buried within the made image.

Together they are a formidable team with complementary skills and sensibilities and a shared drive for perfection.

They met as teachers in Bavaria at the technical glass school where German born Peretti trained as a glass designer. There, she learned to make graals, an elaborate Swedish technique of engraving in which a colored layer of glass is engraved (or cut away) to build a shaded image and then cased in clear glass. This training emphasized a craft focus which she has abandoned; however, she still often employs two-dimensional layered imagery, though she seems to think of it in three-dimensional terms. “I like to work the background and foreground—even on glass or Plexiglas.” She likes to use color but sparingly. In recent work ruddy tones suggest flesh as a subject, not a coloring-in of specific areas. Muted layers of blue may imply atmosphere or water or the old scientific photographs she often appropriates as source material. But the blues and the reds don’t appear in the same work. “I wouldn’t use a lot of different colors. It asks the eye to do too much.” Peretti went on to study in the Academy of Fine Arts in Köln and eventually earned an MFA there.

When they met, Day says there was an “instant connection. Back then, our graphic was more similar than it is now.” They discovered how much of an aesthetic they shared, as they found themselves drawing on napkins in bars and comparing ideas.

Born in Iowa, Day grew up in Baton Rouge; however, he says, “my parents were well- traveled.” He attended high school in Vienna and first studied glass in Paris where he attended the Ecole Nationale Superiere des Beaux Arts for four years after earning his Batchelor’s degree. His earliest work with glass there was with stained glass. He earned his masters in sculpture and glass at Louisianna State University where he also studied video, which he still uses in his installations. He went on to teach at L.S.U. and built a hot shop there and developed the sculptural glass program. Both Day and Peretti have traveled all over the world making glass and teaching.

Many of Day’s works reflect his interest in opera and a strong sense of theatricality. The act of looking, is often underlined by restricting or framing the viewer’s perspective. Day’s ironic treatment of imagery and artifacts from the past exposes our understanding—even our confidence in history—as a response to a theatrical re-enactment with a problematic, or at least, unverifiable relationship to what really happened.

Day likes to work thematically. “I like to do a lot of research when I do a show.” Though it’s too early to articulate thoughts for the collaborative installation the artists are beginning at CGCA under the theme “Connection,” he likes to do solo thematic installations on what might be described as a contemporary similar form of fairy tale, the fictionalized biography of the kind of person regarded as a cultural icon. The life of Tennessee Williams, who lived in New Orleans and made plays about this city, where both Day and Peretti now live and work half the year, is a provocative subject. Day’s association with New Orleans dating back to the time when Williams was still alive (He died in 1983). Day’s interest in Williams as a subject might obliquely parallel his collaborative work with Peretti. Like all biographies it suggests a certain mirroring. “Tennessee was part of my environment. I have a video tape of him being interviewed in New Orleans.” Day’s research actually extended to interviewing an actress who played Blanche in “Streetcar” and he shares Williams’ perception that New Orleans is a more European American city. “In Europe,” Day says, “Conversation is still regarded.”

In fact, Louisiana as a whole is a good place for artists. “In Louisiana, you get to know many cultures.” It was an early nexus of European culture in the US. Day is interested in the Neoclassical painters of this area, and the influence of artists like David and Delacroix.
Although, Day describes New Orleans as “very decadent, very dangerous,” but both artists appreciate the European flavor of this city. Peretti points out that “in the old days, there was more discussion among artists.” In New Orleans today weekly salon meetings of artists are mentioned as an ideal while in Köln such meetings actually take place.

In April or May Peretti and Day shift to the Bavarian Alps and Köln, where Peretti has long maintained a small apartment and studio with rents so affordable it would be foolish to give them up. From Germany they can easily visit Paris and Prague, among the many sources of antiques and historical reproductions which they cast or utilize in other ways.

The work they are completing at CGCA is destined for a collaborative show in Munich. It takes about a year to pull together such a show. In addition to utilizing hot and kiln formed objects, as well as blown and painted forms, they specifically plan to work on sulphide inclusions at CGCA. This complex 18th century process, also called “cameo incrustation,” involves encasing an opaque, usually white, relief in solid glass.

The high level of illustrative detail made possible though this technique will add yet another dimension to an installation which will incorporate much more than the glass. Day plans projected images and film elements while Peretti will execute objects in space.
When they aren’t in the studio, they are antiquing in the New Jersey area, seeking pieces potentially suitable for their own work. Both artists appear very relaxed, very comfortable within the collaboration. The hardest part they say is choosing among so many options of form, material, and expression.

Alone and together (themes which pervade the individual oeuvre of both artists), Day
and Peretti have a truly complementary understanding of art-making. Day: “It’s all entertainment but I take it seriously.”

Peretti: “It’s all serious, but I’m entertained.”