ON BEING AMERICAN/JAZZ: RYAN COHAN’S “THE RIVER” - Ellen Priest
ON BEING AMERICAN/JAZZ: RYAN COHAN’S “THE RIVER”
March 6 - May 28, 2020
On Being American/Jazz: Ryan Cohan's "The River" is a special traveling exhibition by Wilmington artist Ellen Priest. Previously shown at Saint Peter's Church in New York City, The Delaware Contemporary is proud to offer this impressive exhibition to the greater Wilmington area.
Ellen Priest's grand expression of jazz visually interprets what music does sonically. The River is an hour-long jazz suite composed in 2013 by Chicago pianist and composer Ryan Cohan. This album came about after Cohan and his jazz quartet toured East Africa in 2008. Song titles like Departure and Arrival effectively navigate listeners throughout the experience of their journey along "The River." Similar to Cohan's method of navigation, Priest implements a system of multi-layered and superimposed currents of colors that draw the viewer into the sweeping brushstrokes. The interchange between the paint's opacity and translucence, and the assortment of bright, primary colors present an inescapable sense of happiness and energy that permeate throughout the series. The foundation of both Cohan's and Priest's works is an unspoken, universal impulse for joy, discovery, and curiosity that is bound in the human experience.
Central to Priest's language of abstraction is her practice of overlapping layers and forms to produce a greater depth that goes well beyond the surface. Behind each stroke and layer of paint is a sense of improvisation and the intangible spirit of jazz that is expressed in the music. "For me, The River Project is a 'coming home' - an embrace embodied in my work," the Wilmington artist writes. "Coming of age in the Vietnam era, I have long struggled with the contradictions in America, especially my country's persistent difficulty embracing the diversity that defines it and makes it thrive. Yet, both the Abstract Expressionism that has provided a critical artistic source and the Jazz (our great American art form) that has been my beloved subject for twenty-five years could only have happened here."
Ellen Priest is an artist and educator based in Wilmington, DE. She holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT and a Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. She has most recently exhibited at Saint Peter's Church in New York City, NY and at the Delaware Division of the Arts Gallery in Wilmington, DE. Priest has received several prestigious awards, including two from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and an Established Artist Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts.
Carole Bieber & Marc Ham Gallery