I met Sarah Proctor Perdew while she was working at an art store, and as she helped me I discovered that she studied art. I offered to look at her work to see if it would be something that I would like to critique. I instantly liked it. It has a silence and mystery to it and is quite beautiful. But more on that after some biographical information.
She lives in Royal, Susquehanna County, and she has a degree from Keystone College and a bachelors of fine arts from Marywood University, as well as a masters of library science and information from the University of Pittsburgh.
So this beautiful young person that looks like a high school youngster is already highly accomplished! That makes more sense of the quality of her work, too. She has studied painting — her BFA is in that — but also has a minor in art history and did a year in illustration, too. Plus, she is experienced in crafts.
Even though she has a minor in art history, she is still humble about her influences and states that she is often influenced most by her teachers and mentors and by local art shows and even by her lone student, her grandfather.
She writes so well and should write a book, I say. So I will quote her more than I usually do and end with some of my own thoughts on her work.
I asked her “What is art to you?”
“A love of beauty and intellectual activity converge into drawings,” she answered in an e-mail. “Circles and squares offer the greatest intellectual challenge. Color dares me, and I indulge it timidly, Objects beckon me. Natural, sentimental and anomalous items are the specimens of my science. Careful study and record keeping is my daily work. Always thinking and feeling. I am always composing and refining. Incredible amounts of tracing paper are used.”
See what I mean? It would be hard to compete with that writing.
She points out that mandalas have been really important to her for years, as well as symmetry and asymmetry, and that she works primarily in graphite, inks and water color. Her simple and elegant Website is sarahproctorperdew.carbonmade.com
“The process begins with the specimen/artifact expedition, in which I collect objects, draw them, and return them to where they came from,” she said. “Then I refine the drawing using tracing paper. Then using tracing paper or Photoshop, I create a composition, in this case taking one drawing and repeating it. Using the resulting composition template, I transfer the image to the final support, usually by tracing on my light box. From there I make the final drawing.”
“I think that my work is formulaic and scientific, methodical and clean, yet highly personal,” she continued.
That is a good and balanced self critique but some — possibly herself — even might not notice the great creativity of her work. One can sense the hard work and original vision that this young artist already has, and look at the quality of her work already!
Her work to me is quite mystical and spiritual, and yes, even magical. She mentioned the decorative arts and “The Grammar of Ornament” and the Art Nouveau era. I suggested Celtic knots and things of that nature. She agreed that that is in there, too.
There is no beginning or end to some of these types of works. Celtic knots appeared at around 450 A.D., and apparently no one knows where they came from first. There is no beginning or ending to these mystic mandalas, these labyrinths of the human soul, of nature and even of God. They are ways or paths that invite us to follow them, carefully, devotedly, as in the great labyrinth in the nave of Chartres Cathedral.
I think that this is the essence of her work to me. And though it can also be seen as just based on leafs and having a merely decorative aspect to it, I believe (with no disrespect to decorative art) that one misses a lot if one only sees this work in that way. For in it I seem to hear echoes of Jesus Christ’s “I am the vine and you are the branches” and St. Paul’s “We are members of one another,” and it is simpatico with the great medieval Irish philosopher/theologian Eriugena and the whole great history of Celtic spirituality.
It up to the art viewer, of course. See it how you see it — great decorative art or mystic contemplative path — but in whatever way you do see it, please do not fail to see the great, humble and enduring spirit that quietly created all this great work.
The artist Sarah Proctor Perdew. She’s the real thing. Real art — not just surface, but depth.
See one of Perdew’s pieces in the “Seasons of Art” show at the Greater Carbondale Area Chamber of Commerce (
27 N Main St., Carbondale) through March 6.