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Crisp-Ellert Art Museum to open exhibition “Mirages”

Aug 26, 2021

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum and Flagler College are pleased to announce Mirages, an exhibition of new work by Elizabeth Atterbury, Strauss Bourque-LaFrance, and Katy Cowan. The exhibition will open with a walkthrough by the artists on Friday, September 3 at 5pm, followed by a reception until 8pm. Mirages continues through November 6. This event is free and open to the public. Masks are required per Flagler College’s campus wide COVID policy.

Mirages are magical, disorienting, phenomenological, real to the eye, yet just a set of visual circumstances. They can suspend our beliefs and understanding of what is real versus what is perceived and force us to think about our relationship to time, space, and landscape. They are about the act of looking.

Mirages brings together the work of Atterbury, Bourque-LaFrance, and Cowan for the first time. Though geographically separated (in Portland, Maine, Los Angeles, and Berkeley, CA) their conversations over the last year have helped to shape the trajectory of this exhibition. The exhibition title makes reference to the process through which each of these artists transforms materials and objects (wood, paint, images, rope, canvas, aluminum, photography) in order to reinterpret and reimagine the familiar. The artists embrace a simple premise: can a thing be a thing but also another thing?

Elizabeth Atterbury’s work shifts between sculpture and wall-based work. With her sculptures, she appropriates and remakes forms pulled from the world. The forms carry associations and meanings and together can be seen as a repository for Atterbury’s memories (specific and fleeting). A wooden sandal, a folding fan, a beach breeze, a calligraphic shape. In their remaking they undergo a change, becoming more known and more mysterious at the same time. Atterbury plays with scale and repetition within her larger body of work, forcing the viewer to think about not only their relationship to the original object and its potential manifestations, but also to contemplate their own experience of the object’s translation.

Katy Cowan’s work blurs associations with material, subject matter, and viewer experience. By working in cast aluminum reproductions of common objects, and drawn responses to those very forms, she asks the viewer to look deeper, stranger, and with the ability to get lost within their own looking. For the past several years, Cowan’s subject matter of choice has been rope because of its ability to reference things beyond itself. Cowan’s sculpture/painting hybrids start out as rope affixed to a plywood backing, that are then made into solid aluminum pieces, which result in vibrantly coated oil and enamel paintings. During the mold-making process, she either leaves the rope intact and recognizable, other times she unbraids or unravels the material, and other times she will cast the entire arrangement (wood and all) in aluminum. Cowan paints and draws on the cast’s surfaces with vividly colored oil, enamel, and graphite, embracing the capability a surface has to hold, hide, and be consumed by her mark-making. Like her metal works, her drawings follow suit – absorbing marks, suggesting diversions, or entering a conversation entirely of their own making. Cowan’s work suggests both the landscape and the body, fluid and unfixed. Rope spreads out, blown by the wind. Cobwebs, mopping, a head, river deltas, crossed legs, a spill of colorful entrails.

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance engages in a painting practice that is emboldened by painting’s tactile and sculptural capacities. He draws on historical and personal language for these vibrant works that embrace abstraction alongside representation, repetition, and transformation, cutting and arranging the picture to build something else. His most recent body of work explores scapes that are difficult to define; part landscape, part mindscape, part stage. Bourque-LaFrance’s paintings are poetic and emotional, but simultaneously allude to real time and space. Directional paths painted in and scrubbed out. Courses re-routed. A view of a wall as a view of the world. The reflection of improvisation.

Embedded within the works included in Mirages remains the question: can a thing be a thing but also another thing? Together, Atterbury, Bourque-LaFrance, and Cowan reveal what is possible when materials and objects are transformed into one or more other things, and when ideas and interpretations aren’t fixed, but rather can be experienced in a multitude of ways, through an act of close looking.

Elizabeth Atterbury (b. 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) received her BA from Hampshire College (Amherst, MA) and her MFA from MassArt (Boston, MA). Solo and group shows include Mrs. (Maspeth, NY); DOCUMENT (Chicago, IL); Kate Werble Gallery (New York) The Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME); The Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville, ME); kijidome (Boston, MA); Western Exhibitions (Chicago, IL); The Luminary (St Louis, MO) Et al. Etc. (San Francisco, CA); Pulaski Park Field House (Chicago, IL); Able Baker Contemporary, (Portland, ME); Ida Schmid (Brooklyn, NY); TSA (Brooklyn, NY); Bodega (Philadelphia/New York) KANSAS (New York, NY); and The ICA at Maine College of Art (Portland, ME); among others. She lives and works in Portland, Maine.

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance (b. 1983, Poland Spring, ME) earned a BA from Hampshire College (Amherst, MA); an MFA from Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia, PA); and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME). He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions T29 (Rome, Italy); the Northampton Center for the Arts (Northampton, MA); The Kitchen (New York, NY); The Clifford Gallery at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY); ICA Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA); The Contemporary Austin (Austin, TX); Abrons Art Center (New York, NY); and Sculpture Center (New York, NY); among others. The artist was a recipient of the Northampton Arts Council Grant (Northampton, MA); an Artist in Residence at Dance and Process, The Kitchen (New York, NY); and an Artist in Residence at Movement Research (New York, NY). He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA.

Katy Cowan (b. 1982, Lake Geneva, WI) received her BFA from University of Puget Sound (Puget Sound, WA) in 2004 and her MFA from Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA) in 2014. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as Document (Chicago, IL); Philip Martin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA); The Green Gallery (Milwaukee, WI); Kate Werble Gallery (New York, NY), Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (Madison, WI); Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland, OR); and Kate Werble Gallery (New York, NY). Cowan's work is in public and private collections such as the Minneapolis Museum of Art (Minneapolis, MN); Lynden Sculpture Garden (Milwaukee, WI); and Art in Embassies (Maputo, Mozambique). Her work has been reviewed in “Artforum,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Architectural Digest,” “Wallpaper*,” “Artnet” and other publications. Cowan lives and works in Berkeley, CA.

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum is located in an accessible building. If you are a person with a disability and need reasonable accommodations, please contact Phil Pownall at 904-819-6460. Sign Language Interpreters are available upon request with a minimum of three days’ notice.

For further information on our programming, please visit the website at The museum’s hours are Monday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, 12 to 4pm, while classes are in session.

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