Press Release: Portrait: 3 Meters Per Second

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program


Posted on August 01, 2002 For Immediate Release: July 22, 2002

PORTRAIT: 3 METERS PER SECOND New sculptural installations by Welles Emerson

August 2 – September 22, 2002 The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Minneapolis, MINNESOTA- A new body of work by sculptor and installation artist Welles Emerson is featured in an exhibition at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Presented by the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), Portrait: 3 Meters Per Second explores questions about natural phenomena such as wind, waves, and pattern. A desire to answer these questions has inspired Emerson to gather information and translate what she learns into a romantic vision of the natural world on a monumental scale. All of the artworks are new sculptural installations created for this Twin Cities premiere. Born in 1965, Emerson lived in four states and on three continents by the time she was 18 years old. Her parents were children of the sixties and lived a bohemian lifestyle. She recalls as a young girl looking at a frost-covered window and noticing the resemblance between the crystallized pattern and a bird’s feather. Such musings were the beginning of Emerson’s artistic pursuits as a sculptor. Her ideas begin as notes in a journal that turns into a repository for happenings in daily life.

Depending on the scope and nature of the work, Emerson conducts extensive research and draws upon engineering, physics, mathematics, and geology to develop what starts as a visual dream. One work can take a year or more to complete from inception to installation.

Portrait: 3 Meters Per Second is the realization of Emerson’s investigation into the natural environment. One example, and the work for which the show is named, is a sculptural portrait of water at a specific moment in time. Using a gray-scale image developed by a nuclear physicist, Emerson plotted an ocean’s surface topography every four inches. The result is a 16 x 20 square foot rectangle of translucent rods that is 6 feet tall at its highest point. A path around the perimeter provides the experience of looking at the world as if up to one’s neck in water. A romantic and beautiful work, the rods act as both a barrier and a window. Adjacent to the giant portrait are two running fences made of glass tubes. Thread is reflective and placed in a bed of coal, while I’m not the Boss of You, and Vice Versa is transparent and stands in stones from Lake Superior. Nearby is Skin, a wall installation consisting of 3,500 iridescent feathers. All four works present Emerson’s investigation and engagement with the natural world.

Indeed, the magic driving Emerson as an artist is the purity of her curiosity into the natural environment. This is true aesthetically, scientifically, and psychologically. In her work she examines the geologic record, natural selection, equilibrium, turbulence, and waves of sound, light, and water. She is less interested in putting her own fingerprint on her work than she is in capturing what she calls moments of weird universal experience. She offers viewers a chance to examine their own contact to the natural environment through sculptural installations that evoke romance, mystery, and even the sublime.

Welles Emerson lives in Minneapolis with her husband Geo Edwards and their son George. Portrait: 3 Meters Per Second runs August 2 through September 22, 2002 at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. An opening reception will be held Thursday, August 1, from 7-9 p.m. and an artist-led tour will be on Sunday, September 15 at 3 p.m. This exhibition is presented by the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), an artist controlled curatorial department of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and made possible by generous support from the Jerome Foundation.