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Identifier: MC 1522

Ann Sperry Papers



  • 1908 - 2008

Scope and Contents

The Ann Sperry Papers span the period 1908 to 2008, with the bulk of materials dating from 1970 to 2000. They comprise approximately 19.5 cubic feet (14 record center cartons and 11 phase boxes), and the materials primarily relate to her professional work as an artist. Document types include correspondence, photographs, slides, magazine, cassettes, sketchbooks, and art materials. Also included are personal materials such as journals and children’s drawings.


19.5 Cubic Feet (14 record center cartons and 11 phase boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions; advanced notice required to consult collection.

Language of Materials







Biographical / Historical

Ann Sperry was born Ann Samols in New York, New York on January 12, 1934. Her parents, Elias Samols and Dora Gurney, were Polish immigrants who met when they came to the United States. Sperry credited her interest in art and the creative process to watching her mother turn fabrics into clothes as a child. Sperry grew up in New York and attended the High School of Music and Art. She later enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College with the intention of pursuing painting, but a sculpture class she took her senior year changed her artistic course. Her teacher, Theodore Roszak, encouraged her to pursue welding, which became her primary artistic medium. Sperry also studied at the Art Students League of New York.

In 1959, she married Ion Gresser. Her second marriage was to Paul Sperry, a professional tenor, in 1969, and they had three children together: Ethan Sperry, Raphael Sperry, and Joshua Sperry. The family traveled frequently.

Sperry’s work was primarily in abstract, modernist sculpture. Her pieces demonstrate her fascination with metals, particularly steel, and what they were and could be.The subjects of her work range from her Out There sculpture series, which examined the planet, the universe, and their relationship to each other, to her series Desires and Obsessions, which looked at the titular themes in the context of gender. Her work was informed by her identities as a feminist and as a Jewish woman, and its stylings and themes evolved throughout her life. She shared her art through solo and group exhibitions as well as public installations. Her works were mainly displayed in the United States, but several were shown and installed in Japan, Italy, Israel, and France. Currently, her sculptures reside in the collections of institutions including the Storm King Art Center, the Everson Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the Getty.

Using some of her sculptural techniques, Sperry also created jewelry, which she sold at galleries beginning in the 1960s. Her other professional endeavors include costume and set design for operas and ballets in the Aspen Music Festival, sculpture workshops, and working on the feminist art magazines Heresies and Helicon Nine. Additionally, Sperry worked at universities as a guest lecturer, usually on the topic of women artists. She delivered these lectures at institutions such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, Harvard University, Yale University, and Rutgers University. Other major projects of Sperry’s were an artist book edition of Hiroshima Mon Amour: A Synopsis by Marguerite Duras and the conception and coproduction of the television segment “The Medium is the Medium” on the Public Broadcast Laboratory. She also served on the boards of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and the Sculpture Center and worked in political campaigns for candidates including Eugene McCarthy and Barack Obama. Sperry passed away on November 27, 2008.


This collection is arranged into ten series: Professional Files, Artistic Process Files, Other Artists Files, Personal Files, Publications, Journals and Sketchbooks, Artwork Photographs and Negatives, Slides, Audiovisual Materials, and Artwork and Other Objects. Artwork Photographs and Negatives includes one sub-series: Oversized Materials. This arrangement was created through the original order of materials upon accession as well as the amalgamation of like materials when possible. Professional Files, Journals and Sketchbooks, and Artwork Photographs and Negatives are in rough chronological order.

Guide to the Ann Sperry Papers
Katelyn Leffler
The arrangement and description of this collection was funded by the Deborah Remington Trust.