Last night whitespace hosted a conversation with artist, Sarah Emerson, whose current exhibition, Underland, is showing at whitespace through May 12.
Sarah began the conversation explaining how in this series she set out to create a continuous landscape, imagining what was left or right to each piece giving the viewer a space to see the overall panorama, the bigger picture. Basing this work on the Japanese forest, Aokigahara, known as the “suicide forest,” she wanted to create a space where the viewer feels like s/he is at the entry to an underworld, “a threshold between civility and madness.” When she was a kid, Sarah moved in to an unfinished development where driveways led to complete wildlife. She was remembering how it felt as a child to understand safety and what might be on the other side. She was interested in what’s inside of the forest and the secrets lurking in there. Jerry Cullum, in his article for ArtsAtl, relates her work to the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and Sarah said that she actually almost named the show after that particular poem however in the end, wanted to be more ambiguous.
Speaking of being more ambiguous, a guest asked Sarah to speak on the composition of her recent work noticing that there is no longer a focal point and is more abstract than usual. Sarah discussed how this gives more objective quality to the viewer “so that the viewer can imagine what might be at the end of the road to nowhere.” She is wanting the viewer to work more and actually want to work more. Starting each painting by using black, “like a rabbit hole or a rorschach,” Sarah, like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole, got lost in her work or as she put it, “got lost at the end of the driveway.”