flags, plates & demons

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© Courtesy of the artist & Elizabeth Harris Gallery
flags, plates & demons

529 W.20th St.
New York, NY 10011
October 14th, 2010 - November 13th, 2010
Opening: October 14th, 2010 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Tue-Sat 11-6; Summer Hours: July - Tue-Fri 11-6; August - open by appointment
ceramics, installation


The Elizabeth Harris Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Mary Carlson.  This will be her first solo exhibition with the gallery. This body of work consists of a handmade American flag installation juxtaposed with her porcelain plates and ceramic demons.

Mary Carlson writes  about her flags: “After 9-11 in New York City, many of the flags put on display were cheap, plastic and made in China. But by the spring of 2002, many had already started to fade.

After the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance in January 2010, I decided to return to the flag subject matter. There was talk at the time that this court decision would radically change our country in that entities with the financial resources would have an even greater influence on who would be elected to office. Also it seems that we will not be country #1 in the future. Our glory is fading.  Looking to the faded flags of 9-11, I dyed cotton fabric to match these faded colors. I sewed the parts together, using a combination of hand sewing and machine sewing.   These flags are based on the government's standard proportions for an American flag. “

In speaking about her porcelain plates and ceramic demons, Carlson states: “I've been making broken porcelain plates since 1997 and this will be the first time that I've shown them.  I cast the plates and bowls out of porcelain. The casting is very thin and damage happens easily because of the thinness. I try to repair the broken parts before firing and glazing the piece. Sometimes the repair holds up through the firing and sometimes cracks or missing pieces result. Some of the plates are made out of a slip that I tinted to look like wedgwood blue. (Josiah Wedgwood was active in the mid and late 18th century.) And these also are cast very thin so that damage happens.

The demon is made out of ceramic. I wanted to make it feel that it's about to pounce. The image is based on a medieval drawing. I've been working with demonic imagery for many years now. I am interested in the idea of something below the surface (the squid and octopuses); claws and teeth; and the metaphor of voices taking on an animal, demon-like appearance. Last summer I did a series of clay sculptures based on paintings of Margaret of Antioch. Her story is that she was swallowed whole by a demon, but emerged intact after tickling its insides. Zubaran, Titian and the Master of Trebon were among the painters who depicted her. I used these paintings as a reference for my sculptures.”

There is the thread of the unseen that links the three series of works; the unseen quality of a familiar object in Carlson’s flags, the behind the scenes aspect of domestic objects (plates) and the below the surface idea of a demon.

Mary Carlson was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She has received grants from the NEA, the NY Foundation for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.  Carlson lives and works in both New York City and upstate New York.