Anna Von Mertens is renowned for her painstakingly detailed textiles and drawings that traverse enigmatic intersections of space through auras, star mapping and pictorial symbology. In Nature and Other Relationships, Von Mertens explores the virtual and the real through vibrantly colored, large-scale drawings of emoji ideograms. Her new works emphasize connections between the electronic and the natural world and the ways complex relationships are mediated in the exchange.
The artist’s “emoji series” drawings started in 2018, and embrace the complexities of our human digital existence as well as the uncanny timing of this current exhibition. Beginning in March 2020, quarantine was enforced across the globe. Electronic devices became singular stand-ins for human interaction, a mode of bridging relationships imposed by the physical divide.
Von Mertens is interested in the conceptual themes of the simulacrum, and what happens when the digital is made “real” through the act of drawing and subsequently made digital again through internet viewing. Her exquisitely rendered images of monkeys, hearts and cupcakes subvert the intended immediacy of emojis in favor of re-imagining meanings through the hundreds of hours of intensive physical engagement required for their creation. Nature and Other Relationships considers this exchange and asks to what extent human experience can be mediated through technology.
Anna Von Mertens was born in Boston and currently lives and works in New Hampshire. She received her MFA from California College of Arts and Crafts, and BA from Brown University. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts (Boston, MA), 2013 Rijswijk Textile Biennial (Netherlands), 40 under 40: Craft Futures at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery (Washington, DC) and the 2012 DeCordova Biennial (Lincoln, MA). Von Merten’s work is in the permanent collections of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum (Saratoga Springs, NY), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), the Berkeley Art Museum (Berkeley, CA), the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery (Washington, DC) and the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design (Providence, RI), among other institutions.