Mortem | Renovamen: The COVID Diaries
November 30 – December 20, 2020
Ashleigh Sumner (b.1979) is an urban contemporary artist living and working out of East Oakland, CA. Sumner received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Art from Western Carolina University before moving west to Los Angeles in 2003 and then north to Oakland, California in 2017.
Sumner’s early artistic career was firmly rooted in theatre arts with professional credits in stage, independent queer film, and network television. Her years of experience as a performer provided a natural evolution of translating elements of text into the visual medium of painting. Sumner’s inclination toward the spoken word serves as a cornerstone to her practice. She has sought to interweave quotes, poems, rap lyrics, samples of handwriting, and pages from theatrical plays with subject matter reflective of urban West Coast culture. In addition, the selected fragments of literature within a work are often intended to make a subtle political or social statement involving class, gender, and equality.
In Mortem | Renovamen: The COVID Diaries, Sumner maneuvers between the internal and external experience of Covid-19. Each painting serves as a visual diary entry. Private contemplations regarding loneliness, grief, and hope interchange with reflections of national events involving racial inequity, presidential obscenity, record unemployment, unprecedented effects of climate change, and debilitating uncertainty.
The foundation of Sumner’s urban contemporary paintings are constructed from layers of found street posters from the communities of San Francisco and Oakland. The found material serves as a time marker; many of the collected posters are a reflection of the awakening of racial rage and inequality, a historic presidential election along with flyers of public events that dissipated as Covid-19 overwhelmed the county. Each painting is physically distressed, torn, and sanded down to the point of deconstruction. Much like the current state of the nation, the viewer questions whether the work is intentionally breaking down or if something new is on the verge of breaking through. With Mortem|Renovamen, the answer lies within the duality of both.
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