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Artist Priscilla Sage's Floating Worlds of Color

Posted on April 10, 2020 at 1:00 PM by Sarah Bartlett

Iowa artist Priscilla Sage has been creating works of art for more than forty years. A selection of her Japanese-inspired textile sculptures are included in the Contemplate Japan exhibition at the Brunnier Art Museum (currently closed until further notice for the COVID-19 response). 

Japan holds a special place in Sage’s heart since she first traveled there in the 1980’s as part of a sister state cultural exchange program. What she finds most inspirational about the country and its culture is the care and attention to detail found on even the most ordinary objects, which has fascinated her since her first visit. 

“My sculptures are lightweight, designed to move in air currents so the colors make that sensuous slide from convex to concave or turn from a cool exterior to a rich vibrant interior,” Sage says about her textile art on her website. “Although I work on a large scale, my inspiration comes from the structure of natural forms that can be as small as mosses, as sinuous as the DNA helix, as vast as images from the Hubble telescope, or as personal as the human body. The underlying theme of my sculpture is the relationship of humans and nature.”

Each of Sage’s sculptures includes many steps in their creation. First, Sage creates miniature paper models, which is her favorite part of the process. After she has created hundreds of these models, she sorts through them to find the best forms. From these forms, she will create more models, this time full-scale and made from white paper. Sage manipulates, cuts and reshapes these models until the proportions are perfect. With the shape determined, Sage turns her attention to color. She conducts color experiments by mixing acrylic paints, so that the colors overlap and change. Once she is satisfied with the color balance, Sage mixes them the paint in bulk, so she has the exact same shade of each color throughout the entire sculpture.

Priscilla Sage: Floating Worlds of Color, installed within Contemplate Japan, includes objects she created in 1979, the early 1990’s and early 2000’s.

~ Sarah Bartlett, Pohlman Fellow

Forest Flora XXV, 2000. Mylar fabric, acrylic, and wood. Gift of the artist and Charles Sage. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2012.370abc

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