Essex Art Center is thrilled to open its 2024 exhibition season with Parts and Pieces of the Universe by Leah Piepgras. Piepgras is a Texas-born North Andover resident who was raised in a family of artists. Trained formally as a sculptor, Piepgras gracefully traverses performance, painting, and installation.
Parts and Pieces of the Universe is a snapshot of a lifetime of creative work that grapples with our human mortality and explores the magic and mysteries of life. Piepgras tells the story of personal experiences in a mythological form, allowing us to see how the artist understands and relates to the world. The Earth Mother, Infinite Body, and God’s Eyes are recurring figures in her work that embody ideas of generosity, labor, healing, and the presence of and our connection to the divine.
The exhibition will feature the installation Fight Cloud, a whirling arrangement of 135 plaster-cast hands that express the power of channeling our emotions-even ones seen as unfavorable, such as anger. Parts and Pieces of the Universe will also include several never-seen-before sculptural works created this year. Through the scale and accumulation of works on view, Piepgras invites us to share the wonder and awe she experiences when grounded in the natural world.
Informed by the study of paradox, physics, geology, anatomy, and her own bouts with illness, the artist considers big existential questions often spiritual in nature, such as Why am I here? and At what point do I become me? In Piepgras’ work-space, time, and our physical form are woven like cloth-expanding and contracting forever.
About the Artist
Leah Piepgras (b. 1970) received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1997 and has exhibited and performed throughout the United States, including at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show in New York and the Shelter in Place Gallery in Boston, an initiative which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her work has been written about in Artsy, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe, among others.
Piepgras’ work is driven by a deep connection to the Earth. Her proximity to Lake Cochichewick in North Andover directly influences her practice, providing raw materials such as driftwood that washes up on the shore and metal that she’s unearthed along its banks. She believes that biology is our destiny and that we are each given a set of stories to tell and work to bring forth in this world. She feels a kinship with all living things, especially snakes, viewing their prostration as love for the land.