The impulse to arrange the wild variety of the natural world to fit an intellectual symmetry is a fundamental human urge. Beverly Penn’s sculpture speaks to the power of this desire. Her work explores the contradicting need to both idealize and modify the natural environment.
Penn’s cast-bronze sculptures are created by centrifugal casting, a process used in the jewelry and dental industries for its ability to capture tiny details. In her process, plants are burned out in a kiln and molten bronze is made to fill the negative space left behind as the molds are spun around an axle, forcing the bronze into every last crevice. The finished works transform swirls of thistles and other plants into lush metallic gardens, which the artist builds on the wall in 3-D compositions that can span up to nine feet across.
The works highlight what Penn calls the “intersection of nature and culture and the fluid boundaries between them—at odds and in synthesis,” and mankind’s desire to control the natural world through art and science.
She is the recipient of numerous fellowships including a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy; a Connemara Conservancy Artist Grant; grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and a Fulbright Fellowship in Barcelona, Spain. She has also received nine Texas State University Faculty Research Grants involving research in Mexico, Italy, Spain, and New York.
Penn’s sculptures are included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., the Austin Museum of Art; the Racine Art Museum; the El Paso Museum of Art; and the Monarch Center for Contemporary Art in Washington. She has been commissioned for several Public Art Projects, including Unity in Diversity in Las Cruces, NM; the Community Core Sample Project and the Threshold Project with Steve Wiman in Austin, TX; the Natives Project at Whole Foods in Austin, TX; and the 719 Ash Hilton Hotel in San Diego.
She is a tenured Professor in the School of Art & Design at Texas State University.