Suiting Up with Artist Pryor Callaway

So you’re a pre-med major at Millsaps College down in Jackson, Miss., with a focus on biology.  You take an art class on a whim, and what happens next?

If you’re Pryor Callaway, you slip away to Pratt Institute for a masters degree in industrial design, move to Manhattan, and you don’t look back.

Sort of.

“I have a love/hate relationship with New York because I grew up in such a different culture – in the South, they’re stronger in the written word, rather than the visuals,” she says.  “But once I get here, I thrive on it – for 15 years it’s been home.”

After Pratt, she went to work for one of her professors, designing high-end architectural residences in Manhattan.  Through that experience, she learned how to activate the walls and ceilings of interior spaces.

She discovered the mutability of plastic cocktail straws, and began to weave them into organic, biologically-inspired sculptures.  After an epiphany of sorts, she bought a few boxes, and began pinning straws onto walls to activate and transform three-dimensional spaces.

“People think they’re metal, but they’re not,” she says.  “They’re scribbles, like Cy Twombly’s drawings, and they’re designed to cast shadows on the walls.”

She works in more traditional media as well, including plaster, and polyester resin with marble dust.  A number of her pieces, like the luxurious white odalisque, deliberately cross an ambiguous line between sculpture and furniture.

Perhaps her most provocative form is the department store mannequin, beaded and painted, cocktail straws shooting like lasers from fingertips.  “I give her a skin and an armor,” she says.  “It’s not clothes, it’s something else.  It gives her strength.”

Her work has appeared in Interior Design and New York magazines, and at Art Basel Miami Beach.  She met recently with a curator from Boffo and anticipates an installation with furniture showing at the upcoming Boffo Show House, May 1-24 during Frieze Fair/ICFF.  Also featured: Jenny Holzer and Paula Hayes.

For more on Pryor Callaway, go to

For more on Boffo, go to

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