Decadence, death take earthly shape with Ersy
by Roger Green, The Times Picayune
Walking Birdman, part of Ersy’s trek through the ephemeral at Arthur Roger. “Louisiana Realism in the Eighties”
I can’t really say that there’s a unifying theme,” says New Orleans-born sculptor Ersy about the works in her first exhibit in more than six years, now at the Arthur Roger Gallery.
Many will remember the diminutive artist, who left here in 1982 for New York, as the creator of bizarre free-standing and relief sculptures fabricated from ephemeral and/or organic materials, among them snakeskin, animal bones, gauze, leather, feathers, paper and hornets’ nests. The mood evoked by these sculptures, which seemed to be home-grown emblems of Southern decadence, was unforgettably macabre.
Visitors to Ersy’s current exhibit will discover that six years in New York have not diminished, but noticeably increased her predilection for the grisly and visceral. However, while she continues to use some ephemeral materials — particularly feathers — she now also casts many parts of her sculptures in silver or bronze and fabricates certain portions from wood. Her masterful handling of these materials makes her sculptures examples of painstaking miniaturist technique. No less important, the permanence of the new materials invests longer life in her still-delicate sculptures.
Several sculptures incorporate metal casts of dead animals. “People give me dead things to make things out of,” explains the artist, who describes herself as “something of a taxidermist.” “A Comedy of Errors” consists of a fetal cat cast in bronze, supporting itself on a miniature crutch. Similarly, “Marat” includes a metal cast of a dead mouse lying in an old-fashioned bathtub with cast finches’ wings for its metal feet.
In many cases, parts of the sculptures that seem to be objets trouves actually were fabricated by the artist from scratch. “Bridegroom,” which strongly suggests the surrealism of Dali, includes a miniature automobile with a curled tongue protruding from its up-tilted front. The tongue, as might be expected, was cast from a cow. By contrast, the automobile is not a cast of a toy, as inspection suggests, but of a small wax car, built by the artist.
Another work, “Weapon” (which might have been created by Marcel Duchamp), consists of a bronze drill bit inside a velvet-lined, mahogany case. Not only did Ersy fabricate the bronze bit, but also the impeccable case.
Some viewers may find Ersy’s vision appropriate for Halloween, but too ghoulish for comfort at other times. However, for dry lively wit and consummate craftsmanship, her original sculptures have no peers in this town.