Playing with gravity

Perci Chester’s sculptures create all kinds of shapes, but what’s more interesting is the space between them.

Local artist Perci Chester describes the installation of her latest gallery of sculptures and prints at the Traffic Zone for Visual Art on Monday.

Image by Lisa Persson

Local artist Perci Chester describes the installation of her latest gallery of sculptures and prints at the Traffic Zone for Visual Art on Monday.

by Joe Kellen

Perci Chester started her artistic career as a painter, thanks to her father.

“I thought he was very magic,” she said. “He probably played a part in the reason why I feel most art is magic.”

Chester’s dad painted commercial signs, which explains the sheeny color scheme that often appears in her work.

The sculptor will open an exhibit of her latest work at the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art titled “Signature Moves: Perci Chester.” Traffic Zone is a cooperative of artists working in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District and Chester is a founding member. She curated “Signature Moves” herself.

Chester mainly sculpts, even though she still occasionally paints, draws and prints. Her portfolio showcases an array of gravity-defying pieces, varying from squiggles of iridescent steel to female figures made from bronze cast guitars. In Chester’s visual world, items sit on one another in balanced assemblages, assorted sort of like Jenga towers.

Most of the pieces in “Signature Moves” replicate that look.

Each piece has a strong sense of motion. For example, Chester’s “Squealies for Wheelies” depicts three rainbow colored figures driving in a convertible. The sculpture is abstract in shape and the colors change hues as the viewer looks at it from different angles.

“I may have been a bird in a previous life,” Chester said. “I love color and how it can fly past you.”

Some of Chester’s sculptures take on a more geometric shape. As opposed to the cartoonish abstraction of “Wheelies,” there are pieces like “Persona,” which resembles a crinkle fry with a ring on top. It possesses the iridescence that Chester often uses, but this structure doesn’t appear to float like the others.

Howard Oransky, the director of the Katherine E. Nash Gallery  at the University of Minnesota, is a member of Traffic Zone and a friend of Chester’s. He featured some of her work in an exhibit he curated a few years ago at the Nash Gallery called “Minnesota Funk.”

Oransky said Chester’s work is daring — similar to the music scene in Minneapolis during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

 “She’s doing something really different and distinct to this scene,” he said.

Not only does Chester’s aesthetic consistently set her work apart, so does her presence. Like the constant motion of the “Squealies,” Chester constantly moves. Whether she’s tilting her head or excitedly pointing to something specific in a piece, Chester’s personality incites movement. The earrings she wore during her meeting on Friday with A&E were silver cubes that dangled above her shoulders, shimmering in the sunlight coming through studio windows.

“This combination of painting and three dimensional work is what inspires me,” she said. “It’s the coming together of all these elements, elements from my life and from my work and from my world — it all makes an impact.”


What: Signature Moves: Perci Chester
When: Opening reception 6– 8 p.m. Saturday, runs Aug. 8–Sep. 20
Where: Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art, 250 N. Third Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: Free