By Crystal Cranmore
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Eugene Perry knows first-hand about struggle. At the age of 10, he migrated to the United States shortly before the Liberian Civil War. Almost 25 years later, in his own studio in Port Richmond, Perry depicts the battles he endured in life through metal sculpting.
Cutting, pounding and bending pieces into shape, Perry works to put it all together and make sense of the struggles he dealt with or may have witnessed growing up.
“There was a lot of struggling and a lot of love not being there and a lot of love coming later on,” said Perry, who recalled life growing up in a small Liberian village with several aunts, uncles and cousins. He says his father went off to college in the United States and his mother lived in Monrovia, unable to take care of him and his sister.
Perry described his reunion with his father in 1986 as a new beginning, evoking childhood days of trying to relearn how to love his father and the difficulties he felt at times being in a completely new environment. Perry always knew he had a father that loved him very much, but rarely saw him in Liberia.
“It took me a while to accept the fact that this is my father and treat him as a father and also be comfortable.”
It was challenges like this that propelled Perry to use art to spread his own messages of love and struggle.
Perry says he always had an eye for art, but it wasn’t until 2007 when he walked into an interior design store and met who would later become one of his biggest mentors that he started paying attention to his gift.
At the time, Perry was working as a certified welder for International Towers and during his lunchtime, he was using scraps of metal to make works of art.
“That’s when my talent revealed itself. I was a sculptor and didn’t even know it,” said Perry who went from sculpting pieces during his free time at work, to sculpting in his small garage, to ultimately owning his very own studio in Philadelphia.
“It feels good coming to my own shop everyday, knowing that it’s mine.”
Using sheet metal, pipes, textured paint and other materials, Perry creates very intricate pieces that reflect faith, love and struggle and has seen much success in local art shows like Philly’s Manayunk Arts Festival, winning first and second places.
Right now, you can find Perry hard at work, preparing for the 2012 Artexpo in New York where hundreds of exhibiting artists and dealers and thousands of buyers and art enthusiasts are expected to show. This is one of Perry’s milestones and he attributes his success to his faith.
“When people first told me I was an artist, I told them, ‘No, I just enjoy what I do,’” Perry said. “If you really believe in yourself, it’s not about the money. It’s about sharing my testimony and how I’ve been blessed with this gift.”