Elise Drake: Utterverse
Review by Brooke Hoffert
Elise Drake’s Utterverse, shown at Julia Martin Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, consists of twenty-four pieces including sculptures and mixed-media installations. Each piece varies in size and most are constructed from enamel, resin, and gypsum cement. Drake started creating these pieces during the pandemic two years ago and it is her first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Currently based in Nashville, Drake is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) with a BFA in sculpture with a concentration in sustainability and social practice. She is the co-founder of JAWBRKR which designs and builds sculpture and interactive experiences.
When you walk through the doors of the gallery you are confronted with large, swirling letters and glorious, whimsical colors. Pieces and phrases catch your eye and pull you in, asking to be read. These scenes of confession have messages proclaiming the intimate, loud, soft, harsh, and repetitive thoughts of Drake. Confession can be seen as a singular act. The singular act has been designed, colorized, and fantasized through bold lettering, video work, and resin. The hand-made font allows each piece to tell a story of its own; not only through the apparent ways of color and design but through text-based descriptions. Drake states, “I’m communicating a story of cadence, and the audio plays in your head. The text I select shifts between timely and timelessness. I’m making monuments of existential poetry with industrial processes, materials, and scale – daily moment of hauling 100-pound-object-with-conceptual-meaning from place to place.” The language of the past and present come together to form phrases that refer to, as the artist states, “… authentic life experiences, pertinent memories manifested into monuments.”
“we are all getting fucked by the Instagram algorithm”
“cookies the flavor is third party, the question is how big are the chips”
“city whispers and big kid dreams”
“mac and cheese makes me horny”
“death comes quick”
The piece Ghost (Clarity), 2022, enamel, resin, on panel, 10″ x 10″ x 3″, depicts the phrase “I create memories with you in my dreams I wake to be reminded you are a ghost,” which seems to pop off the coral-colored panel. The lettering is molded into various shapes including cubes, squares, circles, and hearts. The kaleidoscope of colors with the gradient orange and yellow, deep blues, bright pinks, and glass-like texture submerges the viewer into the artist’s mind. The materiality of the pieces in Utterverse invokes the memory of tiny keepsakes which Drake describes to have a “…sugary lollipop appeal”. The sculptures remind me of craft beads used during childhood, giving a nostalgic essence to the works. Four-leaf clovers, elephants, ladybugs, rainbows, horses, tentacles, acorns, cats, dice, and hands, all reference those hints of childlike playfulness. The combination of nostalgia and playfulness, contrasted with the deeper and more serious text of the pieces, creates this distortion of reality.
The piece Slip & Slide (Ruby Static), 2022, resin & video, is a piece that brings together moving patterns and bright colors, with a magma-like bouncing landscape background. The piece reads, “ snakes sleep in slick sheets.” The colorful investigation of the harsh moments and memories of Drake’s Utterverse gives the artist an opportunity to share her truths and fixations that need to be expressed. The specificity of the phrases she wants to share with others through her work not only explores those personal confessions but also the reality of being human.