J. Desy Schoenewies and Erica Merchant

"Surface:  Texture and Illusions"
January 11 - February 19, 2016


Exhibit Notes

The Apex Gallery is pleased to announce "Surface: Texture and Illusion," an exhibition by J. Desy Schoenewies and Erica Merchant, both faculty at Black Hills State University.  There will be an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, with an artist talk at 6 p.m. in the gallery. The exhibit will run through Friday, Feb. 19. 

J. Desy Schoenewies:  "Dakota Transformations"

Artist Statement:  The idea of place is a concept that is almost entirely abstract. As human society dictates, we give a name and assign value to spaces that offers resources, beauty, shelter, or other humanistic needs. A place forms our identity and forms the visual imprint of our memories. We share a sense of connectedness to other people who occupy proximity to a particular space. South Dakota, a place that of volatile weather, rugged landscapes, and great distances between populace is largely a place that requires a certain amount of grit and stubbornness to live in. As a newcomer to the area, I have been both fascinated with and intimidated by this place. Through this series, I attempt to tell the many varied stories of the people who have come to live and interact with this intense place.

Transformations:  This 10-12 painting series juxtaposes the human figure with landscapes of eastern and western South Dakota in ethereal and sometimes surrealistic experiences. These exististential works suggest the attractants and the deterrents many people have with living in the Great Plains and the Black Hills, spoken through images of reality and the imagined. The works attempts to examine our ability to coexist with all the factors of survival and history within such an inspiring yet wild space. Using layered imagery and surrealistic notions, I attempt to create a multilayered visual dialog in my paintings. Much of this imagery serves as personal metaphor to my relocation to South Dakota from major urban areas.

Process:  The ideas begin with simple conversations with the people I have met. I ask about their background, what place means to them, and why did they come to this particular place. I take extensive photographs; every time I cross the state I carry my camera with me. When I have collected some images that speaks of a story, I use Photoshop to put together the elements of the composition. I start with my photos, find patterns if necessary, move images around, and develop a composition with a compelling visual literacy. From there, I transfer the image to canvas, work in grisaille underpaintings, and develop the tonality. My paintings tend to be a little heavier in contrast than most other realist or figurative painters. By pushing contrast and bumping color intensity, I give the works a dream-like stage, where they are grounded in reality, but something is a little ‘off.’ I sometimes like to play with linework on my edges, veering between natural visual boundaries and playing with simultaneous contrast, through color intensity and color compliment. This type of exemplified linework is predominant inTransplant and in Indian on Ranch Land.  

Erica Merchant:  "Encapsulating Symmetry"

Artist Statement:  Using the Encaustic medium, this series of painted patterns and origami shapes began in 2015. In these works, origami imagery is infused with fabric-styled patterns. The series is mimicking impermanent substrates (paper and fabric) through the use of oil paint, enamel paint, and encaustic mediums; materials with substantive lasting qualities. By recreating shapes typically made from degradable material, I am able to create works of art that are just as whimsical as the original designs but in permanent form.

The inspiration for my work is grounded in our geological history. More specifically, layers of earth define our past and, much like memories, link our present with our immediate past. I find the action of accidental preservation of certain objects to be one of the most beautiful and simultaneously the most saddening experiences. Viewing the beauty of sediment layers today belies the chaos and destruction that took place in the past to create them. My work employs tension, compression, and metamorphic processes. Just as geological remnants are discovered, past memories intrude our present thoughts to evoke a nostalgic, reflective, and pleasing narrative. My work captures the joy of coming across a fossil and equates it to the joy of capturing an intruding memory from the past. My work equally portrays the sorrow of realizing the deep history that has been lost at a historical and geological level, and of personal memories lost and irretrievable. What remains is unintentional. The past that sticks around is not on purpose; past memories do not make themselves remain in the strata of our minds, nor does a fossil determine its fate. The serendipity of placement in time and space is the only determining factor as to whether something survives to be discovered. I like to think of our memories as a fossilized narrative.

Bio:  Erica Merchant lives in Spearfish, South Dakota. She teaches Ceramics, Sculpture, and Art History classes at Black Hills State University. Erica received her Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Humanities from University of Wyoming and her Master of Fine Arts, emphasis Sculpture, from University of South Dakota.  Erica is a 2014 recipient of the South Dakota Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant.