Nancy Pirri’s “Eight Works” Carry Powerful Echoes of Female Strength

1348032_orig Artist Nancy Pirri's new exhibition of sculptural works at Chicago's Cliff Dwellers Club features eight ceramic pieces exploring woman's struggle to find emotional balance. While the eight pieces do not occupy much visual space perched before a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows in The Cliff Dwellers Club's spacious 22nd floor penthouse, their presence in the room is magnetic. Pirri currently lives in Chicago; she was born in Brooklyn. While she has experience in a variety of media, her true passion for clay began in 1991. Over the last 11 years, she has been seasonally represented in the Three Oaks, Michigan, Studio b Gallery, and she was featured in 500 Figures in Clay V2 in 2010. 3cr-athena-nancypirri (1) “Athena” by Nancy Pirri. bclay/slips/glaze/c.10/nails Seven female figures and one male rest atop wooden stands in a variety of heights. Of the eight pieces, only the male figure is missing a head, reduced only to a representation of his sculpted torso. Each female piece's face is full of life and expression, further emphasizing what the male statue lacks. As a result, it's hard to pay much attention to the male statue; the women are the focus in this exhibition. Each piece is titled with a name reminiscent of well-known and powerful women from the past, such as Ophelia, Athena and Sadie. Athena’s hollow gaze and carefully crafted face speak volumes to the goddess’ struggle to find balance in her complex role as deity, daughter and mother. The addition of nails to form a crown serves to symbolize the double-edged power that comes with her wisdom, as well as references her origins: you may remember that Athena was “born” when she sprung from Zeus’ head. Each work illustrates Pirri's meticulous attention to detail, with a breathtaking array of gradient textures and colors. There is a raw earthiness to each sculpture, as it looks like they are formed of and from the land. Pirri uses a variety of ceramic techniques such as slips, glazes and stains to achieve these effects on pieces created from soda clay. While each work is rendered in a frozen pose, they vibrate with potential energy. They are, at once, a distillation of forward motion, as well as great strength and stillness. Pirri has managed to capture a quiet intensity that draws you in, until there's no denying the verve that pulses within each piece. The Cliff Dwellers Club—a private club/non-profit for those involved in or in support of the arts—is a wonderful home for these pieces, as it features a breathtaking view on Chicago's lakefront and Millennium Park. Pirri’s exhibition continues through July 23 and is free and open to the public Mondays 10am-2pm, Tuesdays-Fridays 10am-9pm, and Saturdays 11am-2pm. To purchase Pirri’s works, please contact or call 773-576-3378.
Picture of the author
Brent Eickhoff

Brent Eickhoff is a Chicago-based director, writer, and educator. Brent has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., The Arc Theatre, The Public House Theatre, Something Marvelous, Whiskey Radio Hour, and The Burrowers. He is the Educational Coordinator for Silk Road Rising, and is a founder and co-artistic director of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble. While Brent has worked with a variety of Chicago theatre artists, he doesn't let that get in the way of writing unbiased reviews of any production he covers.