Throughout her career, Australian-born artist Elizabeth Corkery has found inspiration in the streets of Madrid, the ornate walls of the Palace of Versailles and the countryside of Glasgow, Scotland. But whenever she visits a historic building, she finds herself drawn to the gardens surrounding it rather than the structure itself.
Corkery, a printmaker who focuses on representing gardens in her work, is now completing her week of residency at UT as part of the Guest Artist in Print Program. In her current project, “Ruin Follies,” Corkery uses medium-density fiberboard (MDF) cutouts in the shape of stones to represent the ruin structures common in gardens in the 18th century. The exhibition will open at the School of Architecture’s Materials Lab at 12 p.m. Friday.
“Much of my work can be heavily linked to experiences of travel and of visiting specific sites abroad,” Corkery said. “These sort of travels that I’ve taken, I think I can identify as really being markers through which different periods of my work have developed.”
For the program, faculty members at UT select one print artist a year to come give a lecture and work with students on a project of the artist’s choosing. UT art lecturer Jason Urban, who was a member of the group that selected Corkery as this year’s Guest Artist in Print, said Corkery’s research on representations of gardens throughout history aligned with UT’s status as a
“Everyone comes for one strength or another, but one of [Corkery’s] strengths is this idea of research,” Urban said. “There‘s this background that helps generate the work. Plus, I think she’s got a very nontraditional contemporary aesthetic, which is good. It’s nice when someone has a solid traditional skillset but they’re making things that are not predictable.”
Students in the art department, such as studio art senior Joshua Orsburn, have been helping her throughout the week to develop the individual stones. Orsburn spent four hours Tuesday morning taking photos of sample rocks from the School of Architecture’s Materials Lab, tracing the patterns in Adobe Illustrator and then creating vector files to laser the designs into the MDF “stones.”
“I think in our department, print is the most community-based,” Orsburn said. “If there’s a grand project that needs to happen, print is where you would go if you want multiple people to work on it. That’s just the natural result of having a communal space that we all have to share.”
Corkery’s recent work utilizes both installations and printing processes to surround visitors with representations of elements of gardens such as hedges or glasshouses. She said she focused on printmaking after her freshman year at the University of New South Wales in Australia, but began to create three-dimensional installations during graduate school at Cornell, where the art school was linked with the architecture and planning programs.
“I just really clicked with the methodical approach to print,” Corkery said. “It’s a process that you kind of go from A to B to C, and I’ve found that quite appealing. At Cornell I had exposure to all of the equipment and studios that the architecture school had, and I think when you’re given the space your work kind of expands into it.”
While Corkery has yet to determine how exactly she will arrange the stones, she said she intends for it to be open to interpretation.
“The idea is that these individual stone pieces will be installed in such a way as to be reminiscent of an artificial ruin structure,” Corkery said. “You’ll kind of be wondering whether they’re being constructed or deconstructed. They could either be premonitions or reconstructions."