American Art Collector - - Contents -


Grow­ing up in Lan­caster County, Penn­syl­va­nia, Sarah McRae Mor­ton was sur­rounded by a carousel of life and death. “I was at­tached to the pigs and cows on the farm, but I also un­der­stood what their ul­ti­mate des­tiny was,” the artist says. The ru­ral land­scape can feel sus­pended out of time, a sen­sa­tion that crosses over into Mor­ton’s paint­ings, which are the sub­ject of a solo show at Somerville Man­ning Gallery.

Re­becca Moore, di­rec­tor of the gallery, says, “I find some­thing new in Sarah’s paint­ings ev­ery time I see them. These ‘dream­like’ com­po­si­tions trans­port you into past worlds that are both provin­cial and el­e­gant, but mostly sur­real.”

Mor­ton draws in­spi­ra­tion from her own fam­ily his­tory, art and lit­er­a­ture, and com­bines those el­e­ments to cre­ate her ethe­real works. Mend­ing the De­coy ref­er­ences one of her an­ces­tors from the late 1700s who made his liv­ing as a hunter and trap­per. Mor­ton adds, “It’s also a ref­er­ence to the Na­tive Amer­i­can tra­di­tion of be­com­ing the an­i­mal that you are hunt­ing by dress­ing in its skin.”

The scene in Crown is based on a fam­ily Mor­ton knows in Penn­syl­va­nia who had a daugh­ter that was hos­pi­tal­ized. “Af­ter her ill­ness, a friend went out to the fam­ily’s home and re­al­ized they had cut down all their trees to pay the hos­pi­tal bills,” she ex­plains. “It’s about cri­sis and re­sources.” The back­ground im­agery, de­void of trees, is drawn from a Ru­fus Porter mu­ral, while a bear lurks un­der­neath a white quilt, rep­re­sent­ing both the im­per­iled along with the mon­sters un­der the bed.”

The quilt from Crown will make an ap­pear­ance in an­other paint­ing. “It’s about the meet­ing of craft and ideas, and the his­tory of hand­i­work,” Mor­ton says. At the same time, as a white-on-white square, it also con­tains el­e­ments of mod­ernism, while if the viewer looks closely, the pat­tern of the stitch­ing is that of a his­tor­i­cal Amer­i­can quilt.

Mor­ton’s work will re­main on view at Somerville Man­ning Gallery through De­cem­ber 15.

Somerville Man­ning Gallery Breck’s Mill,

2nd Floor • 101 Stone Block Row • Greenville, DE 19807 • (302) 652-0271 • www.somerville­man­

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