Erin Perry gets mixed reactions to her mixed-media show, “The Pity of War.”
“People say that they’re very moved by it,” the Morro Bay resident said, “but others comment that it's very hard and difficult” to look at.
The featured artist for the Allied Arts Association is not interested in making pretty pictures.
“I like my work to make people think,” Perry said.
The last of the two world wars she portrays ended 66 years ago, but during her trip to England in 2006, she encountered many reminders, especially in small villages. “It’s much more present over there,” she said, with small graveyards whose gravestones bear the same last names, where war memorials are commonplace, where some rubble from the war remains. Even London still retains traces of the Blitz.
“It always seemed more like history here” in America, said Perry, “but over there it’s more a part of everyday life.”
Many children who were sent from London to the country for protection are still alive, and they’ve passed on their stories to succeeding generations. Among Perry’s offerings is a photo of those youngsters, their “shipping tags” strung around their necks.
Gathering material from junk stores, flea markets, E-bay, and friends, Perry composes her assemblages with postcards, book covers, copies of posters, photographs, newspaper headlines and clippings and other ephemera, thoughtfully composing each piece to fit the specific theme. After she gathers her materials for one particular piece, she lets them “kind of meld and marinate and see how they go together.”
“When working on a series, I’ve usually got all the ideas percolating at the same time,” Perry said, but she sticks to one collage until it’s finished.Netting, cheesecloth, string, mattress ticking, rusted bits of hardware and wire find their way into the work that honors the spirit of the people, their bravery and resiliency. Military insignias and stars of David are also incorporated.
To represent battlefields, Perry used old bullet casings, shards of brick and rock, and fabric scraps — and some red paint.
With no art background, Perry learned her craft from books and mixed-media teachers. “I didn’t really get into this type of art ’til 2004,” she said, but as a lifelong journal-keeper who started adding drawings and collage to her diaries, the assemblages seemed a natural extension. Before turning her creative energies into collages, Perry created altered books. A librarian in Cambria, she had plenty of resources. “I get first crack at the discards.”
The word has spread that Perry is interested in an odd assortment for her art. Co-workers and library patrons bring her everything from castoffs to found objects for possible materials, placing them like altar offerings in her workspace.
“There’s not a day that goes by that there’s not something on my desk.”