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Tryon Fused Glass Artist to Display at West Main Co-op

Tryon, NC artist Shelley Sperka will showcase her latest work in fused glass -- “Murmurs” -- at West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg April 19-May 12. The 14 pieces of colorful and delicate sculpture convey the artist’s concern for the environment, creating emotional reactions of exuberance, sorrow, resignation, and determination.

The public and free reception will be Thursday, April 19, 5-9 p.m. during the city’s monthly ArtWalk at the Co-op, 578 West Main Street. The exhibit will be open for public and free viewing Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

“I was inspired by the dying of the earth,” the 66-year-old New York native said. “We are documenting this death. This is my way of acknowledging and expressing my sorrow. The art is not sad. It is the message that is sad.”

Indeed, the art at first consideration is jewel-like: non-representational constructions with vivid colors and striking shapes. Using a wide variety of glass, some of the pieces suggest water and space by incorporating circle of various shades of blue and green into a circular pattern. Other pieces use a dominant red-orange-yellow palette in conflicting and overlapping shapes that might suggest nature’s struggle to survive.

“I came to realize that I was an artist late in life,” she said. “I started making fused glass in 1984 and came back to it in 2006 after rearing my children. I have been working with fused glass for 20 years,” she said. Sperka’s mother was a watercolorist, stained glass artist, and painter, and was Sperka’s major influence as she slowly discovered she wanted to create art as well. She believes her mother taught her “how to see.”

“This work is a departure from what I’ve done in the past,” she said. “I have larger works and more abstract works, as well as some functional pieces.” It took Sperka four months to create this exhibit, and all of the works will be for sale, ranging in price from $20 to $300.

In her artist’s statement, Sperka said: “I use a painterly approach to creating fused glass. I don’t think of glass as ‘hard.’ Rather, I approach it as if it were pliable as part of a palette. I am always interested in how the colors react with light and with each other. I don’t really know how to describe the origins of my ideas. They sometimes wake me up: Often I daydream and suddenly I have an idea about making a piece. My work tends toward the abstract. It’s a way to express myself and my relationship to the world.”

Sperka attended her first glass workshop when her children were young. She instantly fell in love with the process. Between that October and Christmas of 1988, she made more than 200 pendants. She was on fire with love for the glass and the process. She has made abstract landscapes, frit (crushed glass) paintings, bowls, and plates. She has studied with Karoline Shaffer O’Rourke and John O’Rourke, the late Jo Harrison, and attended three Slumpfest workshops at Slumpy’s in Belmont, NC. She attended Open Glass Studio at Tryon Arts and Crafts School with other creative and supportive glass artists.

Besides being an artist, she is the Director of Systems and Applications at Wofford College’s library.

Sperka has been a member of West Main Artists Co-op for a year. “I am very excited about this exhibit, because WMAC a very supportive group of artists, and because this is my first solo exhibit,” she said. “As I have gotten ready for this exhibit, I have received wonderful advice, information, suggestions and therapy from those who have gone before.  It is a real pleasure to be a part of this Co-op.”

When patrons see her latest work, the message she hopes to convey is “Creativity is available to all of us,” she said. “Creating art is a sacred activity. It is a way of communicating without using words, which are often inadequate.

“The most important thing to be said is ‘please come see the exhibit,’” she continued. “Visiting galleries and art openings is a two-part communication. I am communicating with you by creating and show my work. You cannot receive my communication about my work unless you come see it.”

West Main Artists Co-op is a nonprofit and all-volunteer arts agency on Main Street Spartanburg. It is housed in the old West Main Baptist Church and is continuously renovated by its members who are 50-plus strong. It provides affordable work spaces for more than 30 artists in the 20,000-square-foot building. In addition, the Co-op has the largest collection of locally made art for sale with extremely diverse buying options, including pottery, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, quilts. Each month, the Co-op hosts three new exhibits by its members and nonmembers, some of whom enjoy regional and even national recognition.

To see samples of Sperka’s work, please visit Facebook and search “Shelley Sperka”. For more information about Sperka’s exhibit, please visit online WestMainArtists.org.