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Emily Counts: Souvenir

April 22, 2021 - June 6, 2021

Ceramic sculpture of plants in a vase, some cartoonish, some metallic and modernist, others vibrant and colorful, delicately detailed, disproportionate, impressionistic, playful—all in an earthy clay vase.

Objects tell stories. Objects are memory triggers. They have the power to transport us to a specific place or moment in time. In her new solo exhibition at Nationale, Souvenir, Emily Counts unlatches her childhood visual memories and remembrances of loved ones she has lost. The result is a generous, dynamic, and tender collection of new sculptures, in which the past and future coalesce into a visual language that is both familiar and utterly new.

Connectivity, networks, and relationships between objects and people has long been important to Counts’ work. In Souvenir Counts creates many individual elements that link together: pairs of vessels interlocked via their handles, or oversized “beads” strung across the wall. Mushrooms, which in the natural world, are part of vast underground networks, appear throughout Souvenir. They pop up, as mushrooms do, everywhere. A yellow mushroom lamp (one of four sculptures utilizing electricity); a pair of blue mushrooms connected by their stems, hanging off of a wall piece; a series of small, mustard yellow mushrooms in raised relief on a vessel, and more. Counts’ ceramic mushrooms symbolize connection in the universal sense, and also have a very personal meaning for the artist, anchoring her to a close friend who has passed.

This practice of remembrance or tribute through objects continues with Counts’ carefully detailed ceramic flowers held in earthen vases, and the three vibrantly painted female bust sculptures that glow from the inside. When Counts hints at human forms in her work, she always brings us something we’ve never seen before. The faces of these busts, tributes to women in her creative lineage, have features that defy our expectations. Our brain scrambles to return the mouth to where it’s supposed to be, the eyes to their proper spaces, before settling into these new visages born from Counts’ distinctive imagination.

Childhood memories and associations are hidden throughout Souvenir. Never heavy-handed in her delivery, Counts only hints at her past: the receiver of a dial up phone made from ceramic; moments of fiery red-orange stained glass; and numerous graphic details like spider webs and abstract shapes; forms that recall building blocks and playgrounds, all connect back to Counts’ childhood. By creating new objects that loosely hold her past, Counts offers us the opportunity to not only make our own associations and connections, but also for these pieces to become embedded into our own visual memory. Through the act of really looking, and to take that even further to the act of collecting, these pieces will continue to tell stories, creating memories for decades to come as heirlooms, as souvenirs, as objects passed down generation to generation.

Emily Counts was born in Seattle, WA, where she currently lives and works. She studied at the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin and the California College of the Arts, where she received her BFA. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), Cooler Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), Eitoeiko (Tokyo), the Bellevue Arts Museum (Bellevue, WA), Linfield Gallery (McMinnville, OR), studio e (Seattle, WA), in Portland, OR, at Nationale, Carl & Sloan, and Disjecta, and in California at the Torrance Art Museum, Garboushian Gallery, Mark Moore Gallery, and Durden & Ray. Counts was an artist in residence at Varda Artist Residency (Sausalito, CA), Raid Projects in Los Angeles, and Plane Space in New York. She has received grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Artist Trust, and The Ford Family Foundation. Counts is a member of SOIL Gallery in Seattle, WA. She is represented by Nationale in Oregon and studio e in Washington.


April 22, 2021
June 6, 2021
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Wheelchair accessible, Service Animals allowed
Women-owned, Women curated, Women artist(s)
Event Type
Gallery, Visual Art
Pandemic Info


15 SE 22nd Ave
Portland, OR 97214 United States
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