Ann Sperry ’55’s sculpture series “My Piano” is an homage to her father’s devotion. A reporter for Yiddish newspapers and a poet, he spent ten years paying off the piano that his small daughter had wished for. “Every year on my birthday, my father would write me a poem and put it on the music rack of the piano,” Sperry remembers. By the time he died, when Sperry was 15, she had stopped playing. Only years later did she discover the extent of his sacrifice; he had never told her. The piano gradually weathered and broke down, until Sperry came upon a resolution that allowed her to pay tribute to her father through her art. In 1998 she began disassembling the piano and discovering how to work its wood and felt into her welded-steel sculpture.
“When you take apart a piano, there is color everywhere,” she says, referring to the veritable garden of felt, in red, green, maroon, white, purple and black, encased within the mahogany exterior.
Sperry considered herself a painter until she took a sculpture class with Theodore Roszak (SLC faculty, 1941-59). “He gave me my first welding lesson, and it changed my life,” she says, remembering her fascination with the sparks and the noise, and the heat alchemy that allowed her to reshape seemingly intractable steel.
“My Piano,” which includes 22 pieces, was first exhibited at New York’s Kraushaar Galleries, and pieces have also been displayed at Hebrew Union College in New York and at the David Floria Gallery in Aspen, Colo. Sperry has also completed public commissions, including the 39-foot-high piece “Coming Together” in 2003 for the University of Rhode Island College of Business Administration, in Kingston, and the 334-foot-long “Seattle Garden,” which won a national competition sponsored by the Seattle Arts Commission.
Ann Sperry’s sculpture at the University of Rhode Island College of Business Administration, “Coming Together,” is made of welded and painted steel. Its four interlocking strands, she says, honor alumni, faculty, students and administration from the past, present and future of the school. Sperry won an invited competition to create the piece, which is 32 feet long, 7 feet wide and 15 inches deep, and housed in a three-story atrium. Completed in April 2003, it was dedicated in June at a ceremony that included the governor of Rhode Island.