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Sarah Emerson: The Unbearable Flatness of Being

Dec 11, 2015 - Feb 20, 2016
11am - 5pm

2014/2015 Working Artist Project

The 2014/2015 Working Artist Project was selected by Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Sarah Emerson: 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.


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