"ART HAS A WIDE RANGE OF STYLE, FIND YOUR OWN THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! CREATING FROM THE HEART IS ALWAYS THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY WHAT YOU DO."
Danette Sperry is a full-time outsider/self-taught folk artist born in 1962 in Schenectady, New York, afterwards her family moved to Connecticut. As a child living and growing up in the countryside she connected to the beauty of animals and nature which now gives her the inspiration for her art. Danette currently lives in the small town of Maysville, Georgia with her husband (also a known folk artist John Sperry). They reside in a 1915 farmhouse and love primitive antiques, mid-century modern and industrial decor, bird watching, music and folk art of which they also collect. Danette's been making some form of art since childhood as she has always been the creative type. For the last 20 years or so she has been a full-time self-taught artist composing primitive furniture (farm tables, islands, etc.), primitive folk art sculptures using reclaimed wood with vintage found objects and folk art paintings. In the more recent years she has been focusing more on her paintings and concentrating on two styles of mixed mediums.
One style is 2D Relief folk paintings. These are mixed media relief paintings, using a special technique she developed in which she uses fine pottery tools to create and sculpt all her images and details and then paints them once dry. Each piece is then framed with reclaimed wood and incorporates incredible attention to detail in bringing out the personality of the subjects with lots of raised images and textures. These works average one and a half to two months from start to completion. The second style of paintings are textured mixed media in which the background looks like old plaster walls with great texture and crackle paint in the background color. One of these pieces takes her approximately 25-30 days to complete.
Danette loves painting angels and animals, especially birds although any of her ideas can turn up on the canvas. She has a passion for creating art and making others smile. It gives her a welcome escape from the stresses in life and what she enjoys the most is challenging herself through her artwork. Her pieces can be found in galleries and have been collected by many over the years. Danette's favorite art quote is from Andy Warhol, “Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make more art”.
Standing before one of Danette's artworks is to stand with one foot in the present and one foot in a late 19th century Northern European farm house. It is not a stretch to think that Danette's roots in New York and Connecticut may have found nourishment in the flows of Nordic migration in the 1800s through to the US eastern coast. She evokes strong Nordic folkloric symbols such as the raven and the horse and places them next to a more tropical tradition of, for example, colourful birds. Her combinations of artistic media create a three-dimensionality to a tradition of folk painting that can often feel two-dimensional. The result is a powerful, emotive, humane presence and a world that goes beyond the painting itself and ignites all your senses.
Q. Do you remember the first piece of art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I loved to draw and make things from nature as a child. Having dyslexia and a hard time in school with reading difficulties, art was a great way to experience and express feelings while enjoying creating things that also made people smile.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career?
A. Some of my pieces can be found in galleries and have been collected by many over the years. I participated in a solo show in Savannah, Georgia in July of 2017 that was called "Harmony" The Gentle Soul of Danette Sperry. The main art newspaper did an interview and I was published in the paper making the front cover which was exciting. This year I was part of the "Great Folk Art Parade", a folk art show and exhibition at the Stephen Thomas Museum and my piece sold in the first hour of opening. This was another thrilling occasion. Last year my husband and I were featured in the Sunshine Artist Magazine, my art was on the cover which was very exciting and both of our works and stories were in the main article. In August of 2019, my husband and I had a solo show at Main Street Gallery in Clayton, Ga. It was our first solo show together as a couple with both of our artworks.
Q. Why did you decide to become an artist?
A. I didn't choose to become an artist, art chose me and since it made myself and many others so happy I followed my path! I feel very blessed to be a full-time artist and not only love what I do but also have collectors that have made my works part of their homes.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. There have been several artists' works I have admired but none in particular. I'm most influenced by my imagination, nature, animals, bird watching and emotions. I always name my pieces and have a story for them, as they are an extension of my thoughts and inspirations.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. The ability to do what you love, make a living from it and in the process make others happy and smile as well! That's a blessing!
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. My husband and I are always joking around, we live in our own little world of Sperryville and our art studio is just a short walk behind the house. The only traffic surrounding us are the birds. I enjoy creating so much that it feeds my soul and I also get to enjoy my husband's company and his creations. We are in our own magical place. Of course we also have artist friends and Facebook which allows us to connect with the outside world finding new friendships and influences.
Q. What does your work aim to express?
A. We are all overloaded with stresses in life and a smile is worth a thousand words. When it comes to health and overall well being, art heals me and makes me happy, so I want to bring that happiness through my work to others. I think there are so many people with so many different tastes that no matter what type of art style you have you will eventually find your audience if you create from the heart.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Create and collect from the heart. Art speaks to us and the feelings and expressions we invoke in others feed our creativity.
Q. Apart from making art, what do you love doing?
A. Oh that's a tough one, making more art! All kidding aside, I love finding a beautiful piece of turquoise jewellery, bird watching, flower gardens, listening to music, going for drives, being with friends and family, enjoying our pets and many other simple pleasures in life.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. Be happy with who you are, don't compare yourself to others or you'll never be happy because no matter what, there will always be someone more fortunate. Learn to appreciate what you have and not what you wish to have and you will be just fine. Look up the story " Be Happy as a Crow ", everyone can relate and it's a great message and reminder for all of us.
Q. What advice would you give to the next art-generation?
A. Create what's in your heart and it will show in your work. Remember to work hard and have confidence in yourself and your creative style. All this while enjoying the journey.