Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

“Descartes Died in the Snow” at Morton Fine Arts

By F. Lennox Campello

The owner and director of one of the hardest working visual fine arts galleries in the DMV, as well as a one of the planet’s happiest smiles is Amy Morton, who cut her teeth in the gallery business many years ago in Alexandria, and for the past decade plus or so has been running Morton Fine Art at 52 O Street NW #302 in the District.

And MFA, as the gallery is known, will be presenting “Descartes Died in the Snow”, a solo exhibition showcasing work by DMV artist Rosemary Feit Covey (and long-time Torpedo Factory presence in Studio 224), on view from March 3–March 31, 2022.

MFA notes that this exhibition will be “marking both the debut of new work and the reactivation of older works”, and that the exhibition “uncovers new dimensions within the artist’s vast oeuvre. Taken as a whole, this collection of work illuminates the fragility of life on our embattled planet, recognizing the catastrophic ecological losses that mark our current era while turning a hopeful eye towards altogether new horizons.”

Covey is not only a master printmaker, but I have never come across anyone who has married the technical challenges of printmaking with more sophisticated approaches and ideas than this South African ex-pat!

In fact, I think that she may just be the best printmaker on the planet!  I’ve been following the career of this master printmaker for years now… and for years I have been mesmerized by not only her technical skill, but also by her powerful and often breathtaking imagery.

Over the years I’ve also seen Covey do something that few artists do well: she keeps pushing and redefining the genre of printmaking to the point that she can no longer be categorized and labeled simply as a printmaker.

And thus I’ve managed to label her both as the best printmaker on the planet, and also not just a printmaker… see where I’m heading?

Covey’s current focus is on “environmental concerns is informed by 20 years of collaborations with scientists, during which biology, ecology, and mortality have remained steady themes of the artist’s practice. The past three decades have seen the artist rise as an established wood engraver, followed in recent years by an expansion towards mediums including experimental printmaking and mixed media. From the replication of the printmaking process to the carving of the printing block, Covey’s works attend to personal analogies of physical and emotional fortitude; through the manipulation of absence and presence, lightness and darkness, the artist evokes a darker psychological sensibility within complex figural representations.”

In the monumental piece “Black Ice”, circa 2017, and a spectacular 72×240 inches — a wood engraving, acrylic paint and plastic on canvas – Covey uses all of her full and enviable artistic skills to deliver a work of such artistic musculature that one immediately imagines it as the centerpiece in a vast white wall in an important museum which can help deliver it’s clever and stern message.

MFA also notes that while “maintaining the artist’s long standing engagement with psychologically challenging—and oftentimes troubling—subject matter, the diversification of Covey’s mediums highlights the artist’s continued innovation in the arenas of both technique and narrative.” It is a perfect description of Covey’s intelligent assembly of powerful imagery with often disturbing, sometimes sexual, and often dark subjects.

MFA says that “in a titular nod to the life and work of 17th century philosopher René Descartes, Descartes Died in the Snow reflects Covey’s own artistic philosophy, that of art-as-exploration. In admiration of Descartes’ unfettered curiosity and his resulting great lengths of inquiry, Covey draws parallels with the experimental potential of artistic practice.”

We artists can apply logic and intellectual research, then throw it all to the winds, allowing for alchemy and the unconscious to cross-pollinate with the natural sciences as we create,” Covey says.

We are also told that “moved by recent climate disaster scenarios in South Africa—the country of her birth—Covey’s most recent work responds to the fleeting nature of news cycles and the failure of journalistic channels to manifest sustained public awareness of such crucial issues. Having witnessed this subject matter quickly fall from the front pages, Covey understands her work to serve as an enduring reminder of environmental crises within a global consciousness.”

It is clear that Covey feels that artists have a certain responsibility to deal with such subjects and she affirms, “In this manner, I am committed to using my skills to portray this delicate balance as we reach a precipice.”

And it is through her refined technical talents and unerring vison that Covey’s audience is “issued solemn warnings of a speculative future, yet the possibilities for healing are never voided—viewers need only look closer to find them.”

Do not miss this show.

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