“Claire Morgan: Stop Me Feeling” February 10–May 7, 2017
For Claire Morgan’s first solo exhibition,“Claire Morgan: Stop Me Feeling“, in the United States, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn.) will present recent works exemplifying the internationally acclaimed artist’s ecologically minded artistic practice. In her intricate and beguiling installations, sculptures, paintings, and works on paper, Morgan stages dramatic encounters between humans and nature that capture both the elegance and beauty of life, but also the senselessness and shock of death.
“Claire Morgan: Stop Me Feeling“ was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in collaboration with Galerie Karstn Greve and is supported in part by the Friends of Contemporary Art, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and now living in Newcastle, England, Morgan has lived many years in industrialized urban centers and has maintained an abiding interest in how animals adapt to the artificial conditions of our making. For her suspended installations and sculptures, she combines organic and inorganic materials and taxidermy to create works that explore the complexity and fragility of natural processes and animal life forms. Her painstaking work involves the collection of found objects, including seeds, insects, and torn bits of plastic, which she then uses to construct three-dimensional works of grids and geometric shapes. Caught up in the webs created by those materials are birds, deer, foxes, and other animals that live alongside humans.
Morgan finds the animals after they have been killed by cars, pest control, or pets, or have died from natural causes. “The reverence with which she preserves the dead animals through taxidermy sharply contrasts with the carelessness of other humans toward them while they were alive,” says Frist Center curator Trinita Kennedy. “Morgan is an exceptionally sensitive and acute observer of the creatures that live in our midst, and her novel constructions open our eyes to both their beauty and our own destructive ways.”
At the center of her cabinet sculpture Within You Without You, for example, is a small taxidermized dunnock surrounded by countless shreds of polythene shopping bags, the ubiquitous plastic product stubbornly resistant to biodegradation. The brown feathered bird is typically camouflaged in its natural setting of trees and brush, but stands out vulnerably amid the artificially colored litter.
The spectacular installation If you go down to the woods today will occupy its own gallery in this exhibition and includes one of the artist’s largest taxidermy specimen to date. It depicts a muntjac—a type of small deer that has become particularly numerous in the United Kingdom in recent years—that is about to become lost as it follows fluttering butterflies into a forest of orange polythene.
Morgan’s tragicomic titles riff on lines from pop songs, books, or simple words or phrases lifted from everyday language. Within You Without You is a reference to the George Harrison song “Within You Without You” on the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, while If you go down to the woods today is a lyric borrowed from “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” a strangely ominous old children’s song that warns “you better not go alone” into the woods and it’s “safer to stay at home.”
Emanating melancholy, Morgan’s works of life suspended in action portend a future of calamity and extinctions. Yet Kennedy notes, “While Morgan does not tell us how to think, her works can be interpreted as social sculptures that are intended to inspire change, which each of us has the power to effect in our daily lives simply by being less ambivalent in how we treat the earth.”
Friday, February 10
Artist’s Perspective: Claire Morgan: Stop Me Feeling presented by Claire Morgan. 6:30 p.m., Frist Center Auditorium (Free; first come, first seated)
During this event, in conjunction with the opening of her first American solo exhibition, Morgan will discuss her sources of inspiration, artistic practice, and body of work.
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. The Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions.
Information on accessibility can be found at www.fristcenter.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit www.fristcenter.org.