Issue August 27, 2008

Profiles – Jen Pellerin & Samantha Griffith – Sculptors/Gallery Owners

Submitted Photo
Submitted Photo

Sculpture was a natural endpoint for artists Jen Pellerin, 31, and Samantha Griffith, 37, co-owners of Steelskin Gallery (312 W. Main St., www.steelskinstudio.com). “I feel like I’ve always been creative and have always taken things apart and put them back together,” Griffith says. “Sculpture was a natural route.” And Pellerin’s attraction to the medium is physical. “What interests me is the permanence of the material — the visual and physical touchability, the physical involvement in the work, up to and including exhaustion,” she says.

Examples of the women’s work can be found at their Main Street gallery, their studio in Mt. Washington, Ky., and sprinkled around the streets of downtown Louisville. Pellerin created the “Black Cedars” bike rack that sits on Fourth Street between Market and Jefferson. The three green cedars outlined by white lights offer a contrast to the towering gray buildings nearby, which was her main reason for highlighting the common Kentucky foliage, she says. And Griffith created the blue characters of “Standing Supported,” the rack on Broadway near Fourth Street, to depict the intricacies of a relationship, she says. “I liked the idea of up and down, and I always try to incorporate an action. In this piece, it was about kicking up into a handstand and having someone help you.”

Both working as artists on commission and gallery shows, Pellerin and Griffith opened Steelskin a year and a half ago to eliminate the middleman. “It gives people the chance to talk to us about our work instead of it being translated through a third party,” Griffith says. Currently on display is “Works from the Garden,” which features everything from small, steel bugs to sculpture/painting hybrids of trees and landscapes. 

Although the women have different styles and approaches to sculpture, they share a common affection for each other’s work. “I respect and admire her willingness to jump right into a project, because I tend to over-think projects,” Griffith says. 

Pellerin counts her partner’s large-scale figures among her favorites and professes her admiration for Griffith’s MacGyver abilities. “Our blower for our coal forge died several months ago, and she rigged a hair dryer to hold us a few weeks,” Pellerin says. “It’s still going strong.” —Sara Havens