Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Meg Spielman Studio
Dakota Fine Art
11 8th St. S, Fargo
One step into Meg Spielman Peldo‘s 1914 home and you know an artist lives there. There are no spaces left empty and no pieces that are meaningless. The walls of the home shared by Spielman Peldo and her husband Greg are decorated with her own work, mixed in with pieces from other local artists and treasures from their travels.
Spielman Peldo is an award-winning fine art photographer and potter. Her work is strong and feminine, incorporating texture and subtlety. She takes the age-old genre of still life and gives it a contemporary—and often cheeky—twist. Her work ranges from her “A Bra Anthologie” series of still-life bras made out of found objects, to western imagery of the Plains with portraits of horses and bison, to broken and reassembled pottery. Her color palette is either black and white or diluted and soft colors, as she enjoys that the lack of color takes away noise and allows the viewer to see details and composition.
In describing some of her work, Spielman Peldo said, “Kind of patchwork assemblage. I like bringing things together to make a more interesting piece.” Her ceramic pieces are identifiable by their quality of being broken apart and reassembled. This method is often found in her photographic pieces as well. Her still life works (as seen in the Bra Anthologie) are collages of found-objects, pieced together to create a new scene. She also enjoys printing out parts of photos and sewing them together on textiles to create a new whole. Her mother was a designer for lingerie company Vassarette, so she grew up around sewing and has incorporated parts of that in her work to this day.
“The sewing of my images together wasn’t a conscious decision, because that’s what I’d been doing in pottery. It just happened and then I recognized…that’s what I do,” she said. “I like little parts coming into a bigger whole. It’s is the same as the still life [photography], you take these individual objects and make them into something else.”
As a creator who has mastered multiple mediums and subject matters, from sewing to pottery to horse portraits to infant photography, Spielman Peldo enjoys that her portfolio is so varied, yet it all shares a common thread. “Artists often get criticized for not being cohesive in their body of work, but I love so many different things and I think my work actually reflects who I am and the different facets of my personality and my life,” she said.
From Hands to Lens
While much of Spielman Peldo’s work as of late are photography pieces, she cherishes the 25 years she spent as a potter. While photography has been her focus these past few years, she is itching to get back into her pottery work. “I just really want to get back into clay. That’s what I spent a good portion of my life doing,” she said.
Even as a child, Spielman Peldo recalls beeing drawn to both photography and clay. “I always had been interested in photography. I had a little Brownie camera and I would line up my dolls and take pictures of them outside,” she shared. She added that her interest in working with clay came from a young age as well, sharing a story about how she used to take clay from construction sites and make doll furniture from it.
“Clay and photography is just something I’ve always done,” she said.
“I started out shooting film and working in the darkroom and there was something so magical about watching an image come to life in the darkroom. And you don’t get that same feeling anymore with digital, but I do print a lot of my own work, at least the smaller pieces,” said Spielman Peldo. She has her own professional printer so that she can have that creative control over how the pieces are translated.
Whether working with her hands to form clay pieces or perfecting the colors in her photo printing, Spielman Peldo embraces working hands-on, no matter the medium.
Home Art Collection
Spielman Peldo is a cheerleader for collecting art that you love. She pointed towards a piece hanging in her dining room, saying, “This is an example of why you buy really great art that you love, because I would buy this today, 30 years later, and I love it just as much as I did before.” She’s a believer that good art will outlive any home design and decor trends that come and go.
Having many pieces—old and new—in her home, they all remain cohesive. Part of how she does this is through updating frames. “You can do fun things with framing that might be trendy, but you can always change that out later,” she said. A piece of her mother’s also hangs in the dining room, and while it was created decades ago, became modern again with a fresh frame and matting.
Contributing to keeping this art collection going, Spielman Peldo often used the money she received from winning awards for her work to purchase more art. By looking through the pieces in her home, you can see how invested she is in supporting local artists. From a Dean Bowman fish sculpture hanging in her kitchen to a Marilyn Monroe print by Raul Gomez in the living room, the variety of mediums and subjects vary. She just loves collecting art.
Many elements in her home and her work are reflective of her world travels. For 25 years, Spielman Peldo traveled the country, from the Florida Keys to California coasts, showcasing her work at fine art fairs. In this, she met fellow artists and got to get out of the North Dakota landscape for additional inspiration.
Whether traveling for work or a family vacation, Spielman Peldo noted, “We buy things when we travel all the time. I always buy a piece of art.” As an artist herself, it only makes sense that her souvenirs are pieces of local art, rather than shot glasses or graphic tees.
Spielman Peldo explained that she and her family love the beach and are “ocean people.” Taking note of her beachy decor like a beach-scene photograph of hers above the couch or a palm tree throw pillow by Naples designer, Kriss LeCocq, she said, “People think it is weird to have beach things in a North Dakota house, but to me, it brings me to where I’m happy. We love to take pictures of where we have been or buy art from where we have been and have it remind us.”
She joked that she can look outside the window if she wants to see North Dakota, so she enjoys displaying reminders of ocean-life to keep her warm once winter hits.
A Bra Anthologie
Sparked from the Hotel Donaldson’s Bras on Broadway campaign, Spielman Peldo created her first bra-inspired piece, “Nest Enhancement.” From the success she saw with this clever photograph, comprising of two bird nests and natural objects posed to look like a bra, she began to create more. Brilliant titles and creative uses of unlikely materials allowed Spielman Peldo to have some fun and to use some “hoarded” materials she’d been stashing. “How the Breast Was Won” features western motifs of spurs, guns and a sheriff badge. “Flasher” showcases two vintage camera flashes alongside unrolled spools of film. “Boob Tube” depicts two television sets with bent antennas as bra straps.
With the success of this series, Spielman Peldo published a book, “No Lumps, Thank You.: A Bra Anthologie” with Schiffer Publishing in 2012. She also created a special edition of the book alongside writer and speaker Kim Wagner, highlighting stories form regional breast cancer survivors. The proceeds of this special edition went to Sanford Health’s Embrace Cancer Survivorship Program. Each story shared in the book paired with an image from the series, like a story about hot flashes printed alongside “Hot Ta-Tas” (a chili pepper bra) and a piece about mammograms alongside “Freshly Squeezed” (a lemon juicer bra).
A gift to herself in celebration of publishing the book sits atop the fireplace. Displayed is a moose antler she got while in Big Sky. She smiled as she remarked that a “nice rack” was an appropriate gift for the celebration of the bra-related book.
While the books have already been published, Spielman Peldo is excited to keep creating pieces for the series. “Everywhere I go, I see bras. Everywhere I go, everything I look at. I think it’s fun, I’m always coming up with more ideas,” she said. She hopes to find new ways to market these fun works and to keep executing her visions.
“I’ve been following wild horses for about 10 years, and I was driving back from Theodore [Roosevelt National Park] and thinking in the car…the horses will pose for you. But bison won’t and you can’t get close to them. So I was like, who has a bison that will pose for me?”
Following this unique thought-process, Spielman Peldo began the path to her iconic “Uncommon Bison” series. This series captures the bison, an icon beloved by North Dakotans, posed in unexpected environments, like behind an appliance store or at the swimming pool.
Determined to find a bison that would pose for her, Spielman Peldo came in contact with Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton.
Corso, the subject of many of Spielman Peldo’s pieces, was born into a puddle and abandoned by his mother. He was found by ranchers and given a second chance at life when the ranchers got in contact with Chahinkapa Zoo and worked to save the young bison. They embarked on months of medical care and training, nursing the calf to health. Having started his life fully raised by humans, Corso was unable to assimilate into a herd and thus was never destined for a standard life for a bison. As he was raised, he became the perfect mascot for the state, as he represented NDSU on ESPN’s College Gameday and became the model of Spielman Peldo’s series of curious and charming photos.
Thanks to Corso being raised around humans and used to crowds, Spielman Peldo was able to (with proper trainers) take Corso to scenes where she would photograph him. Photos from this series are not photoshopped, as many viewers might initially think, but young Corso was literally present as a model for each image.
In exchange for lending her Corso, Spielman Peldo photographs some of Chahinkapa Zoo’s baby animals and donates her art to the zoo’s gift shop and fundraisers to help continue their rescue projects.
Dakota Fine Art
Beyond producing her own work, Spielman Peldo is part of the eight-member artist collective, Dakota Fine Art. Located on 8th Street in downtown Fargo, Dakota Fine Art is a gallery showcasing the work of the collective members, but also features rotating guest artists.
For many artists, it’s not about the money, but you do have to make a living. “There is nothing wrong with making a living as an artist and creating work that people want to buy,” she said. At the gallery, she can sell and display her work in a platform that allows it to be accessible to the community. The eight members of the collective take turns handing the responsibilities of the storefront, giving additional opportunity to interact with art admirers in the community.
“People want to support local artists and arts,” she said. With brilliant work and a public way for the community to interact with it, Spielman Peldo’s work is sure to continue to be supported, in Fargo and beyond. Spielman Peldo declared herself that you never retire as an artist, it is something that is just in you. To know that she will continue to produce art to feed her spirit is great news for our community.