Installation View of Sarah Emerson's The Unbearable Flatness of Being

Sarah Emerson: The Unbearable Flatness of Being

2014/2015 Working Artist Project (WAP)
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Exhibition dates: December 11, 2015 – February 6, 2016

Artist Talk: January 26, 2016
6:30 pm reception | 7:00 pm talk

MOCA GA 2014/2015 Working Artist Project selected by Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


About Sarah Emerson

Sarah Emerson (b. 1974 Port Huron, MI) is an artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her paintings and installations present viewers with highly stylized versions of nature that combine geometric patterns and mythic archetypes to examine contemporary landscape. She uses the camouflage of beautiful colors combined with a deliberate composition to explore themes that reflect on the fragility of life, the futility of earthly pleasures, and the disintegration of our natural landscape.  Emerson graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1998 and completed her Masters Degree at Goldsmiths College, London in 2000. She has exhibited her work in galleries throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, including White Columns, New York, Cosmic Gallery (Cargnel Bugada), Paris, the Musee de la Civilisation, Quebec, Canada, Mirus Gallery, San Francisco, Ca., the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Fl. and the High Museum in Atlanta, GA. Her work has been published in Noplaceness: Art in a Post Urban Landscape, Stickers Deluxe: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, and New American Paintings in 2012, 2007, and 2003. She was awarded the 2014/2015 MOCA GA Working Artist Project Grant selected by Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Emerson was the 2014/15 Kirk Visiting Artist Fellow at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. She teaches painting and drawing at Agnes Scott College and Georgia State University. She is represented by Whitespace Gallery in Atlanta, GA.

About the Unbearable Flatness of Being

The Unbearable Flatness of Being is a panoramic painting installation on view at the MOCA GA for the 2014/15 Working Artist Project. In the exhibition, there are eighteen individual paintings that can be combined to create one expansive landscape. The paintings are separated into four sections, Of Brute Matter (I-VI), Where the Light is as Darkness (I-IV), As Above So Below (I-VI), and Here’s Looking at You Too (I-II) .

In this series of paintings I propose impossible scenes that blend actual events with the apocryphal narratives that supersede and help us collectively accept that reality. I use nature as my primary resource but I am reactive to the current events that shape our physical and psychological environment. It is amazing to me that a world so beautiful can also be so violent. Although, terror and tranquility never truly exist simultaneously in the physical, the two emotions certainly reside concurrently in our memories. As it is presented, painting can flatten time, space, and memory in pictures allowing room for a reconciliation of otherwise incompatible states of being. For me, this confluence of emotions is The Unbearable Flatness of Being.

Together, the paintings depict a make believe world dominated by terror management theory and symbolic totems that represent our collective desire to be optimistic and innocent in tumultuous times. Each painting is an amalgamation of events happening at once, flattened into one picture plane, with shifting layers of debris that distort and fracture the horizon. Like a cartoon cel there is repetition in the structure of the paintings and repeating symbols that can serve as common landmarks from section to section. In my paintings no event happens separately, it is perpetual wreckage piling up in one place.