Above, between and in, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, May 1-31, 2014

Above, between and in, 2014, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, installation view, image courtesy Dan Kvitka Photography

Anna Von Mertens's new series Above, between and in is a departure from her standard medium, the structure of the quilt; in this series she has stretched hand-dyed fabric onto a wooden frame.

This allows a focus on color, the series including three formations of color: patterns left behind from the artist's frequent juicing of carrots, kale, apples and beets; double aura portraits interpreted from aura photographs of married friends of the artist; and the phenomenon of the aurora borealis.

While seemingly an odd grouping, each of these three systems has its own internal logic determining how and which colors are formed: the aurora borealis is a manifestation of charged and gaseous particles colliding; a computer interprets electromagnetic readings from hand sensors into color wavelengths to produce aura portraits; the flow and saturation of pigments depend on the order vegetables are fed through a juicer.

Von Mertens says part of her interest was to understand these inner workings, to expose the structure behind these color abstractions. Also inherent in her slow process of building color—each work has ten to 15 layers of dye—is an exploration of what is revealed through such intense observation. This lends an existential quality to the works, a balance between the physical and metaphysical. The literal and the imagined are superimposed, for paired with the scientific determination of color is an approach akin to the reading of tea leaves.

Each of the three subsets represents a realm: the juice patterns are of the body and of the earth, minerals we ingest and that become part of us. The auras act on an interpersonal level, negotiating the boundary between self and other, connection and separation. The aurora borealis steps back into the broader universe, the space that holds us and is bigger than us.

Traversing these spaces, from small to large, intimate to vast, internal to external, Von Mertens tries to locate this force that is above, between and in.


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