About the Artist | Peggy Turchette
I have been an artist all my life and have always loved making things with my hands. I grew up in Boston MA and attended the New England School of Art & Design. After graduating I worked as a freelance illustrator, supplementing my art income with a “day job” walking dogs, something I still do today. In 2003 I moved both businesses to Boulder CO to be near family and to study at the School of Botanical Art & Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I completed the program in 2007 and thereafter focused my studio work on botanical illustration.
The first stirrings of the Pavlova Project began in 2011, when I closed my illustration studio to devote myself full-time to my more profitable dog walking business. I really needed a new creative outlet between dog walks but wasn’t sure what to do. I was currently reading Margot Fonteyn’s book, Pavlova: Portrait of a Dancer. I’d always loved ballet and had seen Fonteyn and Nureyev dance together, but I knew little about Anna Pavlova, someone I associated vaguely with swans. As I continued reading, I not only discovered her pivotal role in the history of ballet but also became enchanted with her as a woman of great courage and determination. I thought that she could become my next creative focus, but how best to tell her story using my artistic skills?
As a botanical illustrator I had learned to use careful observation and extensive research to produce an image that was both beautiful and scientifically accurate. This commitment to the twin qualities of beauty and truth led me to a new idea: I would try to re-create one of Pavlova’s most lavish costumes in an historically correct way. I would work small, and use a manufactured doll as my mannequin.
Everything came together: my work habits based on observation and research, my fascination with this ballerina’s life, and my impulse to create beautiful things with my own hands. As I completed one costume and moved on to the next, I found myself becoming immersed in Pavlova’s world. Every ballet costume had a story behind it, every fashion she wore was intentionally chosen for the image it would project to the world. What Pavlova wore throughout her life could tell her story!
I already knew how to sew, but had to teach myself pattern design, tutu construction, tailoring, embellishments, and much more, all at 1/4 scale. Each garment had to be true to the original photographs and written descriptions I had used as reference. Important people in her life: her mother, dance partners, teachers and friends, should be added to the ever-growing collection. Animals, so beloved by Pavlova and so often photographed with her, became part of the work. I sculpted in wool everything from a swan to a 1/4-scale elephant standing 25” high.
As I read everything I could find about Anna Pavlova, I realized that information was scattered across the internet and in a wide range of books and periodicals. There wasn’t one place to learn about her life in its entirety. I then saw that I had created that place myself. The Pavlova Project became that resource - a biography told in a completely original way.
I knew that I needed to find a permanent venue that would accept the Pavlova Project, preserve it and display it, a place where people could get to know Anna Pavlova as I had.
The Pavlova Project has taken ten years to complete. It is now time for me to let go of the whole collection; to share it with you, just as Anna Pavlova herself so generously shared her life, her love, and her art with the entire world.