Women, Nature, Science - Emilie Clark: Sweet Corruptions

June 2, 2013 - August 25, 2013

Emilie Clark, Untitled EHR-46, from Sweet Corruptions, 2012

Opening reception: Sunday, June 2, 2013, 3-5 pm
Artist in residence May 27-June 3, 2013.

Since 2003 artist Emilie Clark has inserted herself into the works and lives of Victorian women scientists and naturalists including Mary Ward, Mary Treat, Martha Maxwell, and Ellen Henrietta Richards. Treating her studio like a laboratory, Clark literally restages much of the research these women undertook. This investigative activity and her archival research and writing inform a practice that involves painting, drawing, installation and sculpture.

Sweet Corruptions departs from the work of Ellen H. Richards—a sanitary chemist who studied air, water, and food. Richards was the first female student and then professor at MIT, and brought the word ecology into the English language. Richardsʼs research—like that of the other scientists Clark has studied—points to transformations of organic material that suggest both fluid categories and vast networks of interconnectivity. Following Richardsʼs air, water and food taxonomy, Clark interweaves them through the provocation offered by Walt Whitman in his poem “This Compost”: “Such sweet things are made of such corruptions.” Elaborating on Richards, Clark sees compost not just as a mundane mode of regeneration, but also as an engine of cosmology. Both Richardsʼ practice and Clarkʼs involve careful testing, sustained empirical inquiry, structured interaction with daily life, and ultimately, world building.

Sweet Corruptions transforms Richardsʼs early thinking about ecology into paintings, watercolors, texts, and installations in which the detritus of everyday life becomes a complex and often beautiful cosmology. The watercolors and paintings in the gallery are based, in part, on Clarkʼs process, over the course of a year, of preserving her familyʼs food waste a month for each season. The paintings emerge not as fanciful still lives of garbage heap composting, but rather as intricate compositions that blend full abstraction with carefully rendered studies of the fauna and flora in her daily detritus. Clark meticulously documents the surprising lives of her preserved food scraps, describing in detail such processes as her desiccating and pickling of carcasses, and also elaborates on her shifting understanding of her ongoing practice.

Clark’s project at Lynden has been shaped by her visits to Milwaukee over the past year. Her installation in Lynden’s dining room--the one room of the house that remains as it was when the Bradleys were in residence—is a kind of memento mori, re-animating the space with the relics of meals past. Clark’s original plan to build a functional field research station on the grounds grew, after visiting Milwaukee and many of its urban farms last year, to include an aquaponic system (incorporating fathead minnows from Lynden’s Big Lake) and a trial garden. Ellen Richards corresponded with young women interested in science, and Clark is replicating this part of Richards’s practice by collaborating with Alice’s Garden, SeedFolks Youth Ministry, and Urban Underground’s Fresh Plaits program to create the garden. This spring, Clark and her Milwaukee collaborators are planting and tending seeds in their respective cities and exchanging information via email. They will come together to plant the garden during Clark’s residency at Lynden in the last week of May, and the garden will form the basis of an ongoing community collaboration.

A catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.

This exhibition and the projects surrounding it are generously supported by a grant from the Brico Fund.

About the Artist

Emilie Clark’s work involves drawing, painting, installation and writing. Following her exhibition at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, her drawings and food detritus will be traveling to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno for a solo show and her field station will go to the San Jose Museum of Art for Around the Table: Food, Creativity, Community. She will also be featured in the inaugural exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Art in New York. Clark was selected as one of four artists in residence at The Drawing Center for 2013. In 2010 Clark was the first Artist in Residence at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Her residency culminated in a solo exhibition in the Steinhardt Conservatory. Her work has been in many group exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, including the Weatherspoon Museum’s 2012 Biennial Art on Paper, the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Ireland; and, in New York, Wave Hill, Smack Mellon and the Arsenal . Her work has been featured in publications including Bomb, Printed Project and Cabinet Magazine, and has been reviewed in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Art in America, Art Week, the Village Voice, and Time Out New York. Emilie Clark is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pollock Krasner award and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio fellowship. Clark has collaborated extensively with scientists and poets and has been published in numerous books, journals and periodicals. Born and raised in San Francisco, Clark received her BFA from Cornell University in 1991, and moved to New York City from the Bay Area in 1998. She received her MFA from Bard College in 2002. Emilie Clark is represented by Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York, where she exhibited an earlier state of Sweet Corruptions in the fall of 2012.

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