This presentation of relief sculptures made in complementary pairs, created by Morrison’s unique process
combining both printmaking and casting techniques, brings to the forefront a conversation between artifact and
replica. Referencing Etruscan frescoes, early Puritan Gravestones, and more directly the gestures of Gian
Lorenzo Bernini’s dynamic figurative works, Morrison recasts these symbols with the industrial material of
gypsum cement, alluding to the way artifacts are imitated if not outright looted — their original purpose and
significance lost or misinterpreted. Through this process of dislocation, artifacts or replicas often take on a new
kind of cultural significance where their possession and display is meant to indicate status and wealth.
Do these objects that imitate artifacts become kitsch when a “faux” material meant to imply this sense of value
fails to do so? Imitation gold and silver, for instance, are often employed in this effort and are featured
predominantly in the exhibition. Recalling a piece of jewelry Morrison had in the 90s, two large panels depict
evil eye chains in gold and silver leaf. The evil eye, originally a talisman considered to have magical powers of
protection, is depicted with broken links, revealing its artificiality, refuting its symbolic properties and
transforming it into a cheap trinket.
Morrison further mines this moment of failed expectation. The Letdown, sharing their title with the exhibition,
are two panels of milky-colored recurring wave patterns. The works are named after the physiological response
that occurs during breastfeeding; the letdown involves the release of oxytocin (the “love” hormone)
strengthening the bond of mother to child. The works recall a memory of simultaneously experiencing the
letdown breastfeeding her son while feeling extreme despair watching Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential
campaign concession speech. This bittersweet moment triggered a heightened awareness of injustice so
profound that it called her to action, altering her sense of place and duty in the world. Turning the waves into
guilded flames, she carries this experience of complicated emotion into Ecstasy, two panels depicting gesturing
hands. Though hands are a repeated trope in Morrison’s work, here they specifically reference Bernini’s The
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Teresa, (one of the few female saints) accounted to have experienced a love of God
with a pain “so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain,
that I could not wish to be rid of it.” This conflation of the body’s letdown while feeling emotionally let down,
waves of euphoria and waves of pain, inform Morrison’s understanding of high and low, unmet expectation,
false narrative, and the power of imagery and symbolic gesture.
Despite the cynicism required to grasp the concept of kitsch, Morrison nevertheless strives for a level of repose
in her pieces. In two final panels Morrison recreates a souvenir pendant that depicts a landscape. She
recognizes that while it may have sentimental value it is not a piece of fine jewelry. Interrogating and
transforming the souvenir into art object through her labor-intensive process, Morrison seeks a sincere means
of making something well-crafted and whole.
Erin Morrison (b. 1985) received her MFA from University of California, Los Angeles in 2014. Her relief paintings have
been included in several recent group exhibitions including Sonia Dutton, New York, The Pit, Los Angeles, C.E.S, Los
Angeles, Chimento Contemporary, Los Angeles, Samuel Freeman, Los Angeles, UPFOR, Portland, and James
Harris Gallery, Seattle.