Frocks, Feathers & Fabrications

John Emery

7 APRIL – 9 May 2018

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

–Nathaniel  Hawthorne

It is not just the object, but also its history–its veritable shadow– that I set out to record in my work.  It is the fragmented story that haunts me.  Memories, symbolism, physical similarities, all play a part in creating the “fabrication”.  Objects are often from a bygone era, or worn with repeated use, reflecting time’s passage. At times they are literally in pieces: the shattered porcelain, the cast-off sardine tin, a bird feather, or watching the flight of a fantail.  In reclaiming them for my own tromp l’oiel still life constructions, I conjure them into a new world. Each work resonates with both the story and history associated with some objects, and the imagined potential of others.

My painting process typically begins with a solitary object, a toy bear, or a Victorian hunting dress. A visual narrative is then constructed, reminiscent of the stories I fabricated about the neglected objects found in my grandparent’s trunks as a child. As with all my works, some elements become three-dimensional paper forms. Thus, the tromp l’oeil illusion of a painted object and the reality of a constructed object shift the perspective and perception of the work. The result is a fabricated narrative, a collection of images, patterns, and ideas that provide a device for the viewer to rediscover and reconsider memories.

I have long been drawn to the mysterious power of things left behind, but for me this process is embedded in practice. Every six months, I face a world that is both completely familiar and yet new again, as for decades I have been moving between Dayton Ohio, and my studio in Burkes Pass New Zealand.


John F. Emery

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