Sam Perry first learned how to sculpt wood as a teenager in his family’s Honolulu canoe shop. His father is a competitive paddler and master canoe builder who has dedicated his life to the art of canoe construction and restoration. His grandfather was one of the founding members of Lanikai Canoe Club (established 1953), dedicated to maintaining and strengthening Hawaiian culture through fostering the indigenous sport of outrigger canoe paddling. In the canoe shop he learned that wood is not lumber; it’s a being with a legacy of its own. He left Hawaii in 1982 to come to the mainland for college.
As the director of installation and conservation at Runnymede Sculpture Farm for over twenty years, Perry has planted seeds, watched saplings grow into young trees, and cleared away trees that have fallen in storms, from old age, or from disease.
Perry has lived and worked in Oakland since enrolling in California College of Arts and Crafts to study ceramics in 1983. Around 1999-2000 he changed mediums from clay to wood. All of the wood he uses in his work has fallen naturally, and much of it comes from Runnymede. It takes up to three years for the logs he collects to cure before they are ready to be carved.
What interests me about carving logs is that the rings reveal a chronology, not only in human terms as a yardstick for life, but also as a record of the wood’s own history of abundance, injury, and affliction.
Imperfections in the wood present challenges that lead to innovations in form. I am inspired by the challenge to adapt and transform a tree’s shape into a new unrecognizable one that alludes to something other than the medium. The sculptures are about how one form interacts or relates to another in a formal composition, metaphors for human feelings and relationships.