by Edith Newhall
Locks Gallery is pleased to present Home and Away, a solo exhibition by renowned Philadelphia artist Sarah McEneaney. This marks the fourth solo exhibition of McEneaney at the gallery and is accompanied by a catalogue in conversation with curator and scholar Janine Mileaf.
Since the 1970s, McEneaney has fervently captured the splendor and catenation of her environments, including her home, studio, pets, and neighborhood. Home and Away expands on this autobiographical narrative by including scenes of travel and artist residencies to give a fuller scope of her practice and how it shapes her body of work. The exhibition includes earlier examples of egg tempera paintings alongside recent large-scale works in acrylic and collage, chronicling a shift in technique and perspective.
Culling from her own experiences, memory and emotion play equally important roles in Home and Away. Like votive offerings at an altar, McEneaney carefully arranges her compositions to feature the minutiae of everyday life, but imbues them with historical and emotional significance. The objects and details that she includes in her depictions of her home and studio in Philadelphia’s Callowhill neighborhood, range from books to paintings to facsimiles of her pets (whose portraits are also featured in the exhibition) to abstract expressionist studio floors. However, for the artist, these spaces transcend their prosaic functionality to become shrines of domestic and studio rituals.
The dichotomous relationship between documentation of a familiar setting and the emotional reality of which it occupies is further exemplified by the groupings of each scene by the artist, allowing the viewer to experience the same setting with a different sense and materiality. In Small Studio (2021), McEneaney moves away from her traditionally egg tempera technique and introduces collaged elements. From drawings that she then photographs, cuts out, and affixes to the canvas, bikes, figures, and household pets take on new dimension. Juxtaposed with Studio (2016), which is the same physical space painted five years prior, Small Studio sees McEneaney explore new techniques while continuing her dedication to the interior and unique exposure into the life of an artist. This pairing shows the transition of the artist’s work and her everlasting commitment to her intimate narrative.
From studio and domestic interiors, the exhibition equally highlights McEneaney’s travels and artist residencies. In Dead Sea at Wadi Mujib, Jordan (2011) the artist paints herself drawing, along with her sister, while floating in the Dead Sea. The way in which she renders the figures invites the possibility of capturing sequential time. This work particularly highlights McEneaney’s unusual and skewed perspective as a distinct motif that runs throughout her work and embodies each piece with a unique intimacy. By flattening the perspective of the scene, one gets the sense they are entirely in McEneaney’s uniquely fantasized world.
Sarah McEneaney has lived in Philadelphia since 1973, when she came to the city to study at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts). She is the recipient of the Yaddo Fellowship (2006, 1997, 1995), the Pew Fellowship in the Arts (1993), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2000), the MacDowell Colony Fellowship (1998), and the Chianti Foundation Residency (2009), among others. Her work is in numerous public collections including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art , Woodmere Art Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Hood Museum of Art, Mills College Art Museum, and the Neuberger Museum of Art, among others.
Home and Away will be on view at Locks Gallery from September 1 through October 2, 2021. Locks Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10AM - 6PM. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-629-1000.