“We need angels as warriors for all afflicted – earth, seas, skies, as well as people. And we need to leave relics, artifacts of what we want known about us here on earth, all our cultures, our sufferings, our triumphs, the beauty, and the horror of our lives.”– artist Sierra Pecheur 

After many years working as an actor, Los Angeles-based Sierra Pecheur has returned to her first love, the visual arts, and specifically to sculpture. The substance of her powerful exhibition DIG: An Imagined Archeo-logism is compelling. But even more so is her willingness and courage to pursue the passion of her vision irrespective of the opinions of other people. She has said “If they want to call me a potter, that’s OK, they can call me a potter.”

DIG: An Imagined Archeo-logism is an installation of nearly 400 ceramic sculptures, including 350 skulls and bones. Resembling an archaeological site, the work invites viewers to question certain culturally accepted myths, and to consider the possibility that these myths are actually propaganda. The Xiem Gallery exhibition space overflows with intricate clay sculptures reminiscent of the colors, tones, and grotesque ferocity and whimsy of Arthur Rackham and Francisco Goya. The individual clay pieces are colored with pulverized minerals; the underglazes show flashes of brilliant lusters. While there are no heaps of dirt, viewers feel they have discovered the sacred space of an ancient, recently unearthed site.

DIG is on show at Xiem Gallery through till Saturday, April 12, 2008. Xiem Gallery is located at 1563 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, California, 91104; gallery hours Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; phone 626 394-2842, www.xiemclaycenter.com.

In DIG, Pecheur addresses the stories behind two cultural myths: Medusa–which in Sanskrit means “sovereign female wisdom,” yet somehow evolved into a malicious snake-haired monster in Greek myth; and Icarus and Daedalus–whose relationship is explored in Pecheur’s questioning of cause, effect and accountability. 

DIG is designed to be an interactive exhibition that encourages viewers to investigate their own belief systems, values and biases. As part of the eight-week exhibition, the artist will host workshops that offer people the opportunity to create their own relics and artifacts by making pieces that represent what they would like to find 10, 100, even 1000 years into the future. These items will be documented and incorporated into the exhibition.    

All works in the installation are for sale. The skulls, bones, and hearts are sold by the pound. So great has been the public interest that Pecheur has had to create additional pieces to replace those being purchased.

“From my work with directors John Vacarro at The Play-House of the Ridiculous in New York and Robert Altman in Los Angeles, I learned there is no wrong way to tell a story. Commit absolutely, go where it leads, and the unworkable will be forced out one way or another,” explains Pecheur. “Storytelling has become the foundational aspect of my art,” she continues. “In 2002, I made a commitment to create DIG. The work is a long-lasting story—one that can be expanded indefinitely.” 

Sculptor and painter Sierra Pecheur was born in Honolulu in 1938. Her first language was Japanese. After the events of Pearl Harbor, her family moved to the East Coast. Pecheur returned to the West Coast to pursue her education at Pomona College, Claremont, California, and at the San Francisco Art Institute, California. Starting in her thirties, Pecheur expanded her creative focus to include an acting career. She studied and performed with Director John Vacarro at The Play-House of the Ridiculous in New York. Upon moving back to the West Coast, Pecheur appeared in many television and film productions, including Robert Altman’s California Split and Three Women, and Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy. She is the recipient of a Los Angeles Cultural Grant (1994-95). Pecheur lives and works in Los Angeles.