Hi everyone, here it is another interview. And this month I had the pleasure to talk with the contemporary sculptor Paige Bradley! I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity!! I hope you all enjoy the reading 🙂
Do you remember when was your first contact with art?
I grew up on top of a mountain without any siblings, neighbors nor a TV. There were only a few things that would truly entertain me. One was playing with the dog or cat outside, another was building legos, and the third was drawing people. I believe I drew people a lot as it served as my company and entertainment. I could create a fictional world that I wished to live, filled with friends and family. My drawings saved me from a world of loneliness.
You said that since you were 9 years old you knew you wanted to be an artist, how was this discovery?
I was walking with my mom, down a street in Carmel California, which was a gallery town- and many windows were filled with paintings of cute little cottages and ocean scenes. Suddenly I stopped when I saw a shiny bronze sculpture of a female figure in a gallery window. It was beautiful. The way the form cut through the empty space like a sleek golden airplane. The reflections of light and shadow held to the forms religiously as the lines of the sculpture danced in the window. I knew then that I had the capacity to do something similar. I just needed to find someone to teach me. I finally had an inkling of what I was born to do.
Who encouraged you to pursue an artistic career?
My Mom was an elementary school teacher and it was in her skill set to inspire children and nurture what they were good at doing. She was definitely the wind beneath my wings and kept me on track when I forgot my path.
Where have you studied art?
I am constantly studying. My first formal studies started in Florence Italy at the Florence Academy of Art. From there I went to Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia. Then I apprenticed for several years under a professional sculptor. Later I worked for him as a studio manager and oversaw each detail of making the finest bronze sculptures. All this experience led me to the confidence to get my own studio and find my own style.
Why do you think your work manages to reproduce so harmoniously and perfectly the most abstract feelings of human beings?
Thank you for such a wonderful compliment. I really believe this is what good art should do; connect us all and make us feel less alone on our journey. I believe I can connect with other human beings I have never met, because I am honest about my OWN feelings. I don’t try to guess theirs. I speak to my own journey and in doing so, unintentionally speak to their journey. I don’t create work as show or performance. I create work as I did when I was a young child; for my own personal and social survival.
Your sculptures are very powerful, they possess a visible strength, however I think that it is the message they are communicating, a message from the deepest of being, where lies their truth power. Would physical strength be a resource to reproduce this strength of the soul? And this is something that you develop in the process of creation, or it comes to you with the idea?
I use the human body to get across the message of what it takes to live in this day and age. I find the daily demand on us (in the 21st century) very taxing. The expectations on living a successful life takes a lot of physical and mental strength. I create figures that are able to pull the weight of their body through this hard life. Every human emotion can be portrayed through the human body and thus, the figure is my vehicle for expressing something much deeper. I don’t want the viewer to get caught up on the surface, but see the message as deeper. Creating a strong physical body helps me explain the pressure and the release, the pain and the joy, the yin and yang, the give and take, the endless dichotomy of the human journey. However, this does not mean that I won’t also sculpt a larger body type, or an older body, a disabled body, a young body. All these bodies have profound stories that need to be told.
You say that your inspiration comes from your own journey and life experiences, can you tell us more about the kind of experiences that inspire you?
Pretty much every singe piece I have created has a bit of my own journey in it. Some good examples are:
Expansion was created out of frustration and acceptance (like a Release!) of allowing chaos in, as part of the creative process, and not always being so academically perfect. I wanted desperately to create a work that showed the light within my soul.
Balance was an early work. It was about stepping out into the world to see if I could bear being exposed, while believing in the message(s) I had to carry forth.
The sculpture Freedom Bound was about learning to trust another human being – staying connected while also pursuing my own dreams.
Home was about finding my forever-mate and it was actually given to him at our wedding. Nurture was about my experience breast feeding. Vertigo was about the fear of loosing all that I have worked towards, but allowing life to happen and trust the journey.
How would you describe your creative process?
It’s always different, but its usually fast and physical. I prefer to work with a model near the beginning of concept and then alone in my studio for most of it– in order to find a deeper concept. Then I invite the model back at the end to make any final adjustments. I keep my eyes open all the time. I never know when or where inspiration will strike.
Although you primarily cast in bronze, you work with other medias such as painting and charcoals, woodcuts, iron-bonded resin, aluminium, mixed media, etc. How do you decide which media you will use when you have the idea for a work?
Every work’s meaning demands a specific set of criteria to tell the story well. I just pick up the media that is demanded to tell the story. I love that I can oil paint, create woodcut prints, or even go diving into a dumpster for the perfect found object! Art should not be bound by medium… though I really DO love bronze!
Your most famous work is Expansion, a woman meditating in lotus position, that many people have understood as a state of self-empowerment or liberation. When you finished Expansion (the way we know it today) you imagined that it would be so successful?
It was a real reach from my comfort zone. And it absolutely had to be done. I was in a place of static perfection and I wanted to invite nature and chaos in to finish the story for me. I was so happy that people loved it when they saw it for a very brief 60 minutes in Brooklyn on October 16, 2005. If it wasn’t for the bus of photography students that arrived at the same exact time, the sculpture would never have been seen. If it wasn’t for social media, the world would not know Expansion as they do today. So much of success is the universe saying ‘YES! You are doing what you are supposed to be doing!’
Do you have a favourite among your work?
It the next one… the one I still have to create! 🙂
What are currently working on?
I am always doing something current in my own life, as well as a few long-term commissions. For example, my kids are growing quite quickly and I am creating sculptures about loosing the childhood part of them and allowing them to become the young adults they are. Releasing, allowing, celebrating, accepting, and gently guiding- all while in awe of their special souls. It is a delicate balance of letting something go forever and while celebrating the momentum of dreams I have nurtured for a decade. I am also working on some political pieces regarding humanity’s tendency to over-correct or not act soon enough. Works on time and how women’s role in society have been viewed and why. I have also been commissioned to create a work about awareness of suicide prevention; seeing depression under layers of beautiful facades. I work on at least 10 pieces at a time.
Do you think we can expect an exhibition of your work out of US soon?
I have had exhibitions in Singapore, Shanghai, Vietnam and London. Many of my collectors are from all over the world and I would love the opportunity to meet them all. I am very eager to create a full traveling exhibit of my best works, but I am of the belief that this will need to be financed by someone other than myself. Perhaps a retrospective?
Has the pandemic affected your work? How?
It has allowed me to take an inventory of what is most important. Realizing that I am at the middle of my life and I had better move along and say what I need to say, do what I need to do… because my inspirations are just that- just mine. They will die with me and no one will pick up where I have left off. So I must keep creating and making. I am happy with what I have done, but there is OH… So much MORE to do!
For further information on Paige Bradley’s work:
All the images were kindly provided by the artist.
There is an old post on the blog about Expansion.