“Old Masters: You’re not getting older; you’re getting better,” The Advocate

by Patricia Gannon via theadvocate.com


Lin Emery welding at the New York Sculpture Center, circa 1954.


LAFAYETTE — Joan Tanner and Lin Emery prove you only get better with age.

After all, Japanese master artist Hokusai was 70 when he began his series of landscape paintings, “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.”

“At 80, I shall have made some progress; at 90, I shall have penetrated even further. At 100, I will have become truly marvelous,” the artist said.

The truth of those words is evident in the work of sculptors Tanner and Emery.

For Tanner, 82, nothing is finite or complete; even age, and her work adheres to an aesthetic of “unfinishedness.”

“Because I’m active, I don’t like that word ‘still,’” she said. “It’s like any profession. If you don’t recognize age as something wrecking your life, you tend to ignore it.”

Based in Southern California, Tanner painted exclusively until the 1990s when she decided to explore other art forms.

Tanner is occupied by sculptures and installations where meaning is contingent upon or in the interpretive role of the viewer.

Her exhibit “CONTINGENt” at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum shows how her work evolves by chance with a continual return to drawing. But the seemingly random is actually anything but. There is a quiet serenity and sparseness of form to “Endofred #1,” while in others, stacks of forms like building blocks appear to have an engineering quality to them, angles and lines marked off with precision. There is an Asian aesthetic, like Japanese reeds, to some of her marks in the red, aqua and grey of “Donottellmewhereibelong #21.”

Her sculptures use industrial materials — wood, metal rods, glass and polyfoam among them. “CONTINGENt” utilizes casters, flex-c trac, plaster, netting, eyebolts, rope and all thread rods. With “Spindles,” one is shrouded in plastic and a baglike “veil.” Tanner dubs her “The Bride,” and, if you pause long enough, the forms twirl, reshape, and reconfigure themselves via a motor.

The materials she uses to sculpt allow her to convert things quickly and satisfy her desire to have rapid results.

“There’s a purposefulness in using accessible materials differently,” she said. “Conversion and reconfiguration.”

Tanner sees in them what others do not and is constantly looking for connections.

“Lots and lots of references to displacement, older people, homelessness, dislocation and extreme wealth,” she said. “The subtlety is meant as a jumping off place to explore. It’s who we are — flawed and incomplete and ongoing.

“I may not have time in my life to change my political philosophy hugely, but if I get to continue, thinking larger, that’s how my work will go.”

Tanner will give a gallery talk at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the museum.

Lin Emery’s Splay

Large is the only way New Orleans sculptor Emery thinks.

Her internationally renowned kinetic sculptures are assembled by cranes. She considers her first commission as her beginning and just received a request today from Northern China.

“Shipping’s always been a problem,” she said. “My insurance company looked at the video online of my sculpture being assembled and canceled me.” She has since acquired another company.

“We’re working on Kansas City (Missouri) at the moment,” she said, “getting it into the truck, getting it out of the truck and into the garden.”

According to Emery, who is in her 90s, she came to sculpture late.

“I originally wanted to be a writer and was in Paris translating for a French scandal paper,” she said. “I went across the street to a Russian sculptor’s studio to see what it was all about.”

And the rest is history. Emery said she is extremely surprised the Hilliard Museum chose her early work.

“I was still learning the foundry,” she said. “I loved pouring bronze; it didn’t matter how it turned out. We used to toast our lunch on the furnace.”

Lin Emery pouring molten bronze at the Orleans Workshop, 1963

Her 13-piece Lafayette exhibition scheduled to open in early October will feature two small sculptures, one from the New Orleans Museum of Art, but all will be inside.

“I’ll keep on doing this,” she said.

But for now, Emery’s declined the offer by China to fly her there.

“That’s way too long,” she quipped.

Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum exhibits

WHAT: CONTINGENt: drawing and sculpture by Joan Tanner

WHEN: Through Sept. 16, with gallery talk by the artist at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6

WHAT: Lin Emery: A Movement, 1957 – 2017

WHEN: Oct. 7 – Jan. 27

WHERE: 710 E. St. Mary Blvd., Lafayette.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday