Carol Peligian’s pieces almost always start with a drawing. She is never sure where that drawing will lead. To another drawing? A painting (The Seductive Quality of the Impossible)? A sculpture (Transfluence, Sosomuch)? An installation Susurrus)? This keeps her life in a constant state of sizzling flux, like a shape-shifting organism; no two days, minutes, or hours are alike.
Here, as the second diary in our series “Days of Their Lives”—profiles of accomplished women with unusual jobs—is a peek into the daily life of an artist, featuring shots of Carol at work on one of the sculptures in her series Things Keep Their Secrets. —Ed.
A day in my life is a divine mixture of ordinary and extraordinary events. My studio sees a lot of unglamorous action once I change into my splattered studio attire. I hold a lot of pencils and I make a lot of molds, but that alone is not what gets a piece born. It is the muse, mystery, and desire that define my daily studio practice. That is what gets me through the interruptions, phone calls, and general minutiae that threaten the creative process. In many ways I wage a war against having a “daily” life. I blur the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary, knowing that my work will benefit from the synthesis of the two. It’s like alchemy.
I go into my studio every day and play with my muse. I draw the way I drew at Rhode Island School of Design, every morning, like a meditation. The phone rings, I paint, the phone rings again—it’s the fabricator. I daydream, I’m hungry, a visitor stops by with marble remains of a church, I’m hungry, I cast. I unhook my phone and have a real conversation at the diner with my assistant. I pace around thinking I’m not working, but I’m really processing fairy dust.
The objects that leave my studio are still direct products of my techniques applied to my materials. They are created from those unglamorous discrete actions, items on the list of things I do each day. Their lives, on the other hand, are defined by the mystery and magic that I invite into my days. It may be days, weeks, even months, before a piece earns a title. The titles always seem to come after the pieces are made and I have lived with them for a while. They reveal their content to me and I mutter a few words.
When I’m making a piece, the voice of my mentor permeates, telling me to be one with what I do—to be obedient to the piece, to trust it. Serving the piece eclipses any aspect of what might be called “daily life.” What thrills me throughout the process is the subconscious touching the conscious—logic and intuition playing together. Experiencing this each day has the headiness of exotic perfume. “That’s really glamorous,” I say to myself as I change back into my not-studio clothes after a day of extraordinary moments.
Step by Step on a Sculpture from “Secrets”
The finished sculpture, from Things Keep Their Secrets, on its mirror-polished stainless-steel plinth. Like the other works in the series, this aluminum, fiberglass, and urethane sculpture (2012–13) contains a hidden, secret object.