Portrait of the Artist

Beverly Penn

Flora Cast Eternal

By Noelani Kirschner | September 23, 2019
<em>Tessellation</em>, 2016, bronze, 42”H x168”W x 10”D
Tessellation, 2016, bronze, 42”H x168”W x 10”D

Beverly Penn never expected to become a sculptor. Having started out working on paper and canvas, she began to experiment with bronze casting after a trip to the southwest. The experience proved to be a revelation. “For me, painting lacked structure,” says Penn. “Metal had enough character to make my work shine.”



Her work has primarily been concerned with the way society perceives the environment. “I’ve always been interested in exploring that flexible boundary between nature and culture,” she says. The cyclical lives of plants has always interested Penn, who grew up on a farm, the life of her family governed by the blooms, harvests, and the decay of the seasons.

By soldering the minutiae of the flowers, stems, roots, buds, and vines of plants in metal, Penn traps the ephemerality of the seasons in one of the most durable materials available to artists. As for how she chooses the plants she depicts, Penn returns to her original fascination with society’s preconceptions about flora. “The plants that I use primarily are invasive species,” she says. “I’m interested in those things being maligned by most everyone—and yet what I try to do with them is show their endurance and their sturdiness.” The result is a decorative puzzle of forms, winding toward and away from the walls from which they hang. There, frozen in the moment, weeds appear beautiful. These flowering botanicals actually benefit the environment—feeding bees and butterflies alike. Their intrinsic value is hidden in plain sight.

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