Friday, December 14, 2007

Woodland melancholy

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM

(Photo courtesy Sarah Emerson)

I wrote about the Chatov family show at Mason Murer for this week’s paper. But the artist who really made me stop in my tracks and caused my heart to go pitter-patter was Sarah Emerson, set apart in a small gallery all her own.

If you feel like experiencing sadness and ecstasy all at once, I suggest scurrying down to Mason Murer through Jan. 20 to see Emerson’s exquisite show.

A graduate of the defunct Atlanta College of Art and London’s Goldsmiths College (whose alums include Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor-Wood), Emerson has a pedigree and talent to burn. Her phantasmagorical, Disney-on-crack painting "Into the Dark" was one of the gems featured in the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center’s otherwise disjointed Talent Show exhibition.

Emerson’s work might at first glance look like a kitsch-o-rama, but the girl has some pathos working, too, a kind of teenage girl, cute-but-tragic, The Virgin Suicides-meets-Lisa Ruyter aura in her images of deer framed against stained-glass skies and hard-candy-colored flowers. There is darkness, too, evident in "Drift," where wolves and ravens feast on a bloody carcass. The paintings are large enough to envelop you in the worlds of wonder Emerson has created. Their dripping forms, paint-by-numbers graphic style and highly artificial color scheme reference pop culture but construct a sad and magical world all their own. I felt myself standing on a precipice between innocence and danger, and I longed to fall in.

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