A Delightful Bath

On some basic level, every exhibition is an opportunity to contemplate and maybe even escape a little. Delights: Bathing in Another World – Paintings and Sculptures by Elissa Morley on display at the Ann Tower Gallery through May 10th gives us the chance to immerse and discover.

Elissa Morley, Installation View at Ann Tower Gallery

Morley’s twelve watercolor and graphite drawings, along with seven hanging tissue sculptures transform this gallery, now located on the second floor of the Downtown Arts Center in Lexington, Kentucky, into something quite unique. To visit is almost as though you were stepping into the illusions Morley depicts within each of her poplar frames.

Central themes in her work are quietude and contemplation. In this space, Morley successfully asks us to relinquish momentarily the known world overrun by the mating call of Twitter, push notifications from Facebook, and the ever-present ephemerality of Instagram.  Rarely alone long enough to contemplate our surroundings and what we are doing within them, we take little time to consider how our actions might impact this world – or even worse – that while forever caught in the flutter we do nothing to alter any of it.

calderButtonMorley’s Alexander Calder-esque mobiles hung from the ceiling
make no sounds as they react to our movements within the gallery. Initially this is a very calming sensation. On deeper contemplation, the soft, tattered tissue shapes like that in Blue, White, Pink Wings – tenuously held together with wire – might be remnants of something we once knew, something that is now only moments away from falling apart entirely. Other works like Yellow Wings hang so low that they occasionally penetrate the viewer’s personal space beckoning us to reconsider our complacent gaze.

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Blue, White, Pink Wings (above) and Yellow Wings (video), steel, watercolor, tracing paper

Within the framed objects hung along four walls, pacific blues, wisteria purples, and persimmon oranges painted on tracing paper – sewn together in multiple layers – blur any overt intent or heavy import. Yet their presence in this multi-media installation encourages deeper inquiry. Fields of multiform abstractions are punctuated with architectural elements and the occasional tree-like shape as though to signal some specific place, a place not yet known as in a drawing or idea that is still churning in the mind and at the hand of its creator.

But there is a creator at work, one who resists the confinement of others’ imagined boundaries perhaps but is still mindful and present. Stepping into and back out of these drawings allows us to renew our perceptions of this world by bathing briefly and delightfully in another. Delights: Bathing in Another World Paintings and Sculpture by Elissa Morley is on view through May 10, 2015 and is well worth a visit.

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Elissa Morley, Frigidarium watercolor and graphite on layered paper 27x34

Elissa Morley, Frigidarium watercolor and graphite on layered paper 27×34

Elissa Morley attended Asbury University and the Slade School of Fine Art in London, England.  She has lived in Lexington for several years, teaching at Georgetown College, Eastern Kentucky University and Asbury University.  She is also a recipient of a 2009 Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant.

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