In O Smithereens!, Emerson presents a new series of paintings and drawings for her third solo show at the gallery. Since 1999 her work has been focused on contemporary landscape and how it is transformed by human intervention and natural phenomenon. The works in O Smithereens! build on her previous series, Are We the Monsters? and Ruin In Reverse. The title is a nod to both, the cartoon absurdity of Yosemite Sam with his guns and the tenacious American ode of Walt Whitman’s O Pioneer!.
In this new series of works, Emerson obliterates the horizon line of traditional landscape and imagines it redefined by a void that surrounds or penetrates the compositions. Each painting is a landscape blown to bits with the smithereens reassembled to become something new, detached from stable ground and continually collecting debris. She is ultimately concerned with traditional ideas of landscape painting but she prefers to think of landscape through the broader definition and examination of our current cultural landscape. This allows her the freedom to explore, and combine on canvas, multiple ideas about our physical and emotional environment. O Smithereens! presents imagery in a constant state of ruin and creation with contradictory elements compressed and rearranged as deformed asteroids. Her highly stylized paintings combine disparate objects on canvas that cling together to create an awkward and, sometimes, forced compositional harmony. Flowers, smoke, disembodied eyes, and limbs jut out from the clouds of dust and debris. These clustered smithereens are rogue planets with ghostly characters, bullets, bombs, and rainbows trying to settle on lumps of rock hurtling through negative space. Emerson describes the smithereens as personified, autonomous elements working to reform their shape and search for a direction in the whirlwind of a cultural landscape perpetually defined by political and environmental upheaval.