With only five exhibitions remaining before legendary local gallerist William Busta shuts the doors on his eponymous gallery, there's lots of anticipation in the arts community. The exhibition debuting this Friday, featuring Elizabeth Emery's Lick Time (sculptures and drawings) and Douglas Max Utter's Time Lines (paintings and monotypes), is a fine beginning to that farewell.
Emery was selected as one of Cleveland Magazine's Most Interesting People of 2015. She was influenced by her early years in urban Philadelphia and rural Lawrenceville, New Jersey. For more than a decade, she lived in New York City, designing textiles for the clothing industry. In a drastic and unexpected career move, she spent the next 10 years of her life racing bicycles professionally throughout the U.S. and around the world before eventually settling in Cleveland.
She currently spends most of her time working at Zygote Press and in her studio. Emery's plaster and concrete sculptures feature form and textural elements influenced by her time in urban settings, as well as her ceramic M.F.A. work.
"I became especially interested in the way fabric contained space and merged this curiosity with the very tactile medium of clay during my M.F.A. studies," says the artist.
Emery finds inspiration in Cleveland's endless dichotomies.
"In Cleveland, I'm surrounded and inspired by visually entwined contrasts in architecture (steel mills beside elaborate, wooden two-family houses), culture (historically Polish neighborhoods hosting new immigrants), environment (ocean-sized lake, farmlands, plus vibrant downtown within cycling distance), and climate (summer-big-blue-puffy-cloud skies followed by winter-low-grey-stillness)," she adds.
Last year, Emery completed a two-month residency in Homer, Alaska. "Since returning," she says, "I made a series of gold cloud drawings that will hang with the sculptures as a 2-D backdrop to the amorphous, very 3-D plaster sculptures. I have a new studio and it's been really fun to see how the new building, new views, new surroundings has changed the colors I'm using. This winter with all the snow has as well."
Emery's work explores the blurred line between the masculine and the feminine through societal assumptions of her materials.
"Concrete is industrial, heavy, typically poured by men," says Emery. "Once set immoveable, it retains tiny details during casting as it pushes outward against the textured fabric boundaries I make. Both fabric and sewing reflect furniture, clothes, bedding, and are historically associated with women's work...At the same time, I'm exploring the edges of a permeable line between the feminine and masculine quality of materials."
This will be her first solo exhibition in Cleveland since Invisible Summer at William Busta Gallery in 2013.
Douglas Max Utter is arguably Cleveland's most respected and accomplished living painter and art critic. Since winning the Best Painting Award in 1987's May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art, his work has received three individual fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, a 2011 Creative Workforce Fellowship, as well as journalism awards from the Cleveland Press Club and others. His paintings have been exhibited in more than 40 solo shows in Cleveland, New York, Phoenix and Germany. Additionally, he has published several hundred articles, reviews and essays for this rag, along with the Plain Dealer, Kent State University Press and many others.
This will be Utter's fourth solo show with Busta since 2008. Utter's exhibition, Time Lines, is heavily influenced by his family and his past, especially his childhood.
"It strikes me that whatever painful memories my dad may have had, I remember him as a man who was notably unafraid of the world, who quietly immersed himself in life," describes Utter. "My mother, equally brave, taught me to see and love beauty, and encouraged my art from earliest childhood. The paintings I have done are an extension of what they saw and showed to me. My landscape is theirs, farther down the road, just as theirs was a continuation of sight and being that disappears with the thoughts and charms and flaws of other ancestors, into the lost wild of time."
His work will fill three rooms inside William Busta Gallery.
As the end of Busta's gallery approaches, these exhibits seem especially fitting. Both Emery and Utter have created work which confronts and challenges the framework through which we contextualize our everyday life.
"If my work has a central theme, it is probably the mystery of human identity, exchanged between persons or clutched close to the bone," Utter says. "In one way and another I've always tried to use painting to remember, and to re-imagine, who I am and how I am in the world... I look for myself everywhere as if life was a mirror, or a dark jar."
Utter's Time Lines runs through April 11. Emery's Lick Time runs through April 18. Additionally, both artists will be in the gallery from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 11. Additional gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or by appointment.