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A rt s |

BY S a r a h S a r g e n t

Arrested Movement it is a period of crisis for kiara pelissier, whose art seeks to draw out the soul of the material she works with. Richmond artist Kiara Pelissier is living in Santiago, Chile, for the time being, where her fiancé is in graduate school. But she is no stranger to the place: It is the land of her father and a place she has visited every year since she was three. In true 21st century fashion, we connect via Skype. Aside from a few glitches and one disconnection, it goes smoothly, and I am talking with (and seeing) Pelissier in her sunlit studio nearly 5,000 miles away. A fresh faced, blue-eyed blonde, Pelissier is open, friendly and articulate, and I get a real sense of the passion she has for making art. Born in 1976, Pelissier grew up in a world where artistic discipline ruled. Her father, Jaime Pelissier, an eminent goldsmith, had a studio in the family house in Connecticut, which exposed her to a working atelier. Her mother is a surface design artist, and her grandmother and great-grandmother were sculptors. The last, Edith Barretto Parsons, studied with Daniel Chester French (who sculpted the seated Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.) and is well known for her statues of children. Initially, Pelissier chose a different path from her relatives, entering the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a flute performance major in 1995. Though she was technically very good, Pelissier wasn’t passionate about music. She had dabbled in goldsmithing and loved working with her hands, but, she confesses, “the metal didn’t move me.” At her father’s suggestion she took a course in lampwork, a type of glassmaking that uses a gas torch mounted on a table as its heat source. She loved the medium; seeing the materials move and melt before her eyes was thrilling, but she didn’t like the sedentary quality of the work. It was what she saw across the hall in the glassblowing studio that captivated her. Glassblowing can be physically challenging, at times requiring athletic-like training to ensure the glassblower has the necessary stamina and strength. Its physicality immediately resonated with Pelissier, who had been a serious gymnast

growing up. “I love the combination of grace and power that gymnastics requires. Glassblowing is the same in that sense. Your body must be loose enough to move with the material, yet firm enough to direct it.” Having found her passion (one would be hard pressed to find something other than glassblowing that marries athleticism and flute playing so well), Pelissier transferred to the Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in glass in 2000. After working for various glass artists, she entered the Master of Fine Arts program at VCUarts where she studied with Jack Wax, whose interest in contemporary art made him open to using glass in exciting and unconventional ways. Pelissier worked for many years using traditional glassblowing techniques, producing perfect bowls and vases, but preferred to discard the

rules of perfection in favor of something more intangible: a feeling and response to form. “My goal is to draw out the soul of a material body. A piece is not complete until it initiates a conversation with me, and not the other way around.” After receiving her degree in 2006— the same year as her father who had gone back to school to get his Master of Fine Arts in blacksmithing—Pelissier made Richmond her base and began teaching glassblowing at Vir-

Above: Crumpled Duo, 2011, blown glass. Below: Kiara Pelissier and Lagrima , 2011, plastic shower curtain rings and shower cord.

neled her artistic expression into a ginia Commonwealth University. Her more benign—and less physically parents also settled in Richmond punishing—medium. She took a mataround the same time and purchased tress, and reconfigured it, adding pigan industrial building on Cary Street, ment to produce an engorged “Tick.” which they have transformed into The piece is a mordant response artists’ studios. to her predicament; she’d been At once free and controlled, Pelisdepressed and sleeping so much sier’s pieces—whether large assemthat she began to feel the life was blages of smaller individually blown being sucked right out of her by pieces, like Cascade and Knots, or her bed. “Ironically, 'Tick' was one smaller self-contained work, like her of the few images that came to me elegant Crumple series—are luscious so strongly and clearly due to my discourses on arrested movement. depression at the time that it essenBeverly Reynolds of the Reynolds tially made itself. I was consumed Gallery in Richmond says: “Peliswith the longing to disappear into sier has a masterful ability with sleep and the bitter resentment of glass. She is a true sculptor, and this desire. As a result, this comher works are as inventive as they mon mattress is now as the creaare beautiful. She has a huge range ture is after feeding, fleshy and within her sculptures—from graceengorged.” “Tick” is a surprising ful, small objects to challenging departure, emotionally dark and and significant installations,” addheavy, and physically so as well, ing, “Pelissier achieves great fluwhen compared to her glass pieces. idity and dynamics in her pieces, Presently, Pelissier is trying to get which belies the precision and back to the basics of what it means to discipline requisite in the creation create. She may stay in Chile or move of those works. This dichotomy is to her fiancé’s native Argentina, or exactly what makes Pelissier’s art even return to Richmond—the place so compelling.” she refers to as home. It is a period of But 14 years spent standing on crisis for Pelissier, but also for opporconcrete floors all day—in contunity. Though glass is her first love, stant motion for eight hours at a Pelissier realizes she can achieve the time, working with a medium same ends through different media. that demands complete attention “I need to free myself from my bond (the heat blasting from the kilns to glass, because in the end, it's not is an intense 2,000 degrees Fahrenjust about technique or media, it's heit)—took its toll on Pelissier. Her about expression.” body began to revolt against the Forced to change, Pelissier has had heavy, unforgiving and dangerous to reassess things; at times she’s even work, despite the adrenaline-stoked questioned if she could still be an rush it gave her. She developed a heat artist. But in the end, she says, “I’ve allergy and suffered from fevers and arrived at the conclusion now that migraines. Her skin, hands, joints and muscles were all affected. At first, there is absolutely no doubt that I am an artist. I cannot help but see the she was in denial, pushing through world from the perspective of an artthe pain, but the work started to sufist. It is who I am. And I now know fer and so she stopped. that that will never change.” Deprived of glass, Pelissier chanV i r g i n i a

UpFront Reviews_OCT11.indd 37

L i v i n g

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8/25/11 4:03 PM

Virginia Living - October 2011  

The October 2011 issue of Virginia Living is the tastiest yet, featuring our favorite pairings of cheese and wine, with every crumb and drop...

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