"As young artists we hope to find the conceptual center of our work before the end of academic programs. After, the work often takes new shapes and/or new meanings, in many cases through a greater comprehension of sensorial expression and ones changing subjectivity in the world. Making art requires a willingness to come to terms with a lot, most of all, an understanding of our ancestors–historically and culturally. Only then can we hope to speak truthfully in the moment."
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Sheila Pepe is best known for crocheting her large-scale, ephemeral installations and sculpture made from domestic and industrial materials. However, the exhibition Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism, (toured 2017-2019) curated by Gilbert Vicario for the Phoenix Museum of Art, and the catalogue published with it, showed us that Pepe has built a more expansive and complex way of working since her start in the mid-1980s.
For more than 30 years she has accumulated a family resemblance (see Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations ) of works in sculpture—installation—drawing and other singular and hybrid forms. Some are drawings that are sculpture—or sculpture that is furniture, fiber works that appear as paintings, and table top object that look like models for monuments and stand as votives for a secular religion. The cultural sources and the meanings twisted together are from canonical arts of the 20th century, home crafts, lesbian, queer and feminist aesthetics, 2nd Vatican Council American design, an array of Roman Catholic sources as well as their ancient precedents.
The constant conceptual pursuit of Pepe’s research, making, teaching and writing has been to contest received knowledge, opinions and taste.
Pepe grew up in Morristown, NJ and headed north to New England in 1977 for her education–ultimately spending 20 years in Massachusetts before moving to NYC at the age of 40. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.