Last May, we caught up with Chuck Sperry in his studio as he was burning oversized silk screens for his ambitious project in Tellaro, Italy. Sperry has been spending summers in the quiet, seaside town for the past seven years and was invited to transform the Oratorio Santa Maria in Selaa, a 17th-century Catholic church nestled in the coastline, into a psychedelic temple rife with pagan influence. Sperry teamed up with an originator of psychedelic light shows (a la the Grateful Dead), Bill Ham, and commissioned composer and singer Franz Treichler to create a soundscape to accompany the immersive work.
“I didn’t know what to expect from my audiences, especially when one considers that I was transforming a small village’s church into a psychedelic art spectacle. I might have expected hostility or shock. When I set this massive show in motion, the impressions people gave me shocked me! Tellaro loved it,” said Sperry when asked about his viewers’ reactions. “One lady, and she was emblematic of the positive reaction I received, stood in the middle of the church floor dumbfounded at seeing my Muse ‘Thalia’ framed into the altar. A shocked smile drew across her face and she said, ‘All the mothers of Tellaro should bring their daughters here, to enjoy what has been missing in the church forever.’ And I asked what is that? She said, ‘The female principle.’”
Sperry says the experience was a whirlwind, with people flying in from other parts of Europe and the US to see the work and crowds of locals at the show every night. “The Flowers of Popular Victories” was on view in Tellaro June 10-15 and after the show came down, Sperry traveled throughout Europe for other projects. He recently returned and brought us these photos of the unforgettable Tellaro installation.
Chuck Sperry, Bill Ham and Bill’s technical companions, Kim and Emi Ito
Radio Zero playing at the exhibition