Art Maker: Piper Foreso, sculptor

  • Piper Foreso in her studio in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Piper Foreso works in her studio on a trellis. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Piper Foreso with the piece she made for the Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A piece made by Piper Foreso at the Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Piper Foreso with the sculpture she made for Art in the Orchard in Easthampton; at right in her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Part of a piece made by piper Foreso at the Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Metal fences made by Piper Foreso in her studio in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Friday, September 01, 2017

“I always wanted to be an artist, but I lacked confidence and hung out on the fringe in college and later,” says sculptor Piper Foreso, who is originally from New Jersey and went to the University of South Florida and later Simmons Graduate School of Management. “I finally took a stained-glass class at the Cambridge [Center for] Adult Ed when I turned 40 and have been making art ever since. Beyond glass, I primarily work with steel, bronze, and now acrylic.”

Foreso, who turns 70 this year, lives in Northampton and works out of her studio at One Cottage Street, Easthampton, where she creates playful and functional steel garden art that often incorporates birds, dogs and rabbits. We recently caught up with the artist to learn more about her foray into fluorescent acrylic — “a whole story unto itself!” she says.

Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

I’m just completing my largest installation so far — Easthampton’s Big Beautiful Wall at Art in the Orchard in Easthampton. This project was inspired by national politics, and I wanted to present another point of view, one which I think many Americans subscribe to — and that is our country as a continuing beacon of personal freedom and opportunity. Easthampton’s Big Beautiful Wall has figures coming and going, which changes the Wall from one of obstruction to a means of access. Inspirational phrases on the wall serve as reminders of why so many are attracted to America.

For this project, I ventured into new territory by choosing a material I’ve never worked with: fluorescent acrylic. This material presented many challenges but it conveys important subtle messages. While the various colors indicate diversity, the transparency speaks to the invisibility of many of our immigrants. Often these are people who come to perform jobs we don’t want to do. I wanted to honor and celebrate those who are often unacknowledged and yet contribute in so many unseen ways to make our lives work as well as they do.

How do you know when your work is finished?

This varies and is a fun part of making things. Often it’s an intuitive sense that comes forward about a particular piece or it could be from conversations with friends. And sometimes it’s a matter of setting a work aside for awhile until the answer becomes clearer.

Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

I love so many, but I’ll say Kandinsky for his ability to visually describe music in his paintings and Miro because his work is so much fun.

If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

What would I be if not an artist?  Homeless? Depressed? Just kidding… I went to graduate school for business, so some kind of small business entrepreneur, I think.

Dream dinner party: Who would you invite?

What a fun question! It could be a really big event, but for a small gathering I would choose smart, funny, and strong women who color outside the lines – Gilda Radner, Martina Navratilova, Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Zaha Hadid and Gertrude Stein. 

What’s your go-to snack while you’re working?

Coffee is my best friend when I’m working.

Do you listen to music while you’re working?

In the studio, I listen to classical music during the day and Red Sox games or jazz at night. Saturdays are reserved for “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” and other NPR talk shows.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

That’s easy — clean. Clean any place that has been neglected for awhile — the garage, a closet, a corner of my studio. It always works!

— Brooke Hauser

Piper Foreso’s work can be seen at Art in the Orchard/Park Hill Orchard, 82 Park Hill Road in Easthampton, and at piperglassandsteel.com.