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Out of Townie

Cumulative Residency Exhibition by Emily Downes
Exhibition Dates: August 5 - October 8, 2022

Eleven months ago, I moved to Brockway, Pennsylvania, from my hometown of Hyde Park, New York. I had never truly left home before, not like this. I wanted to reinvent myself, ingest the culture of the deeply rural PA Wilds, and find a sense of self that was authentic, while trying to suppress the parts of my identity that no longer served me. I am on a mission to answer this simple question: when you strip your identity of the place you call home, who do you become? By investigating the aesthetics of a place that is foreign to you, there is no safety net, and in a town like Brockway, there are many opportune moments for introspection.

Stereotypes play a very loving role in this story. I was expecting the culture shocks of gun stores and Trump signs, but in the slowness of it all, I broke down a lot of my preconceived notions about the community that exists here. I learned that strangers can be kind, which was abnormal to me, and that they are willing to partake in your joy if you let them. It starts to get sad when you remember that this is their life, and that you just happen to be there at that time, in this year. That is what I want to capture; the ephemerality of what it is like to connect when you know that you are leaving. Do you remain detached and take it for what it is worth, or dive in, and lick your wounds when it is all over?

There is a sense of longing in the imagery that I am portraying. I am the lens, and my body leaves no trace of itself. All that remains is the sight through my eyes and the feelings I cannot shake. In the protective and detached quality of these works, I can be removed from the equation and the message remains the same. The viewer and I share the same set of eyes, fixed onto my perspective. They can understand the grief in My Brother and Me (2022), the voyeuristic quality of Deer in Overhead Light (2022), and anticipation in The Stamp Collector (2022) series, two identical polyptics, separated by scale, depicting the loss of a lotto game. A common thread that precedes this imagery is leisure; leisure through playing games, watching films, watching people, and making connections. To further distill this sense of self, who are we when we are not at work?

I have been experimenting with the idea of breaking pieces down to their simplest components. In clay, it is not common to be able to take objects apart in this way. Their construction, built up layer by layer, can easily become undone and taken apart, erasing its significance as a whole image or idea. Using cold connections such as nuts and bolts, nails, and hooks, I can control how fixed an image is to its form at a specific point in time. The ability to deconstruct some of these narrative scenes is akin to my tendency to hyperfixate and overanalyze, looking at every word and object that hangs in the air as something of heft. I want to contrast the heaviness of these layers to playing with the transparency of color in the image decoration, playing with the opacity of underglaze application from crisp linework from image transfers, faded opaque fields, to watery, dreamlike surfaces.

My Brother and Me

Red and white earthenware, terra sigillata, nuts, bolts, steel chains, carabiners

Location: Brockway, PA

I Get Older, They Stay the Same Age

Red and white earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype, terra sigillata, nails, nuts, bolts, nickel

Image sourced from Dazed and Confused (1993)

Gospel Church Altar

Red and white earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype, terra sigillata, nails, copper wire, glaze, wax, wicks

Location: Reynoldsville, PA

Blazed Brian

White earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype

Image sourced from The Breakfast Club (1985)

Brockway Fourth

Red earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype, terra sigillata, glaze

Location: Brockway, PA


Red and white earthenware, terra sigillata, hand drawn ceramic monotype, glaze, brass hooks

The Stamp Collector (small)

Red and white earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype, fired-in nails

Location: Brockway Sportsmen’s Club, Brockway, PA

The Stamp Collector (large)

Red and white earthenware, hand-drawn ceramic monotype, nuts, bolts, nail polish,mirror

Location: Brockway Sportsmen’s Club,

Brockway, PA

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