Through painting, sculpture, and installation, the Atlanta artist, an MFA candidate at Georgia State University, creates a highly atmospheric experience within the limited confines of Day & Night Projects. Lined up on a slender white table, five small blobs of sherbet-colored sand are each placed in front of tiny color gradients, setting the woozy tone immediately. Made of sand, glue, acrylic paint, and aluminum foil, the five miniature duos are given titles like deep pink shimmer/warm mint fade, icy frost blob/crisp blue fade, and the exceedingly charming melting Matterhorn/luscious fade. The sand blobs are basically 3-D renderings of Carley’s oil paintings, which depict colorful mountains and valleys in the same wildly tropical tones.
The installation Wish you were (t)here (memory of place(s) assemblage) is the showstopper of “Forever and a Day.” Composed of three tons of sand (an amount that, with regard to volume, is not as absurd as one might imagine) and dozens of bright orange and yellow palm leaf paper cut-outs against a window, the installation is like walking into one of the paintings. A path winds through the sand, encouraging the visitor to walk around. Overhead lights are covered in pink and yellow paper that casts a glow like a sultry island sunset.
The overall effect feels slightly fantastical. Carley’s use of intense warm colors, sand and palm fronds inevitably conjures up memories (or daydreams) of spectacular island escapes. “Forever and a Day” transports the viewer to a different place, a respite from the real world. But there’s something nauseating about it, too. The sherbet colors feel a little too sweet, the lighting a little too dreamy and, at the opening, the gallery was too hot and humid for comfort. In many ways, the space felt very similar to a tropical beach, but with all the elements at their extremes. As Carley says in her artist statement, the “ever elusive present and constantly rewritten notion of the past” are both challenged and considered in “Forever and a Day.” But the exhibition is more than an escape from our collective history; it’s an equatorial fever dream.
Carley demonstrates an aptitude for evoking atmosphere in ways both refreshing and potent. However, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that she’s holding back. Wish you were (t)here (memory of place(s) assemblage), with its tons of sand, is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. The palm fronds, while adding an extra level of texture and sentiment, would also look at home in the storefront windows of Anthropology. The sand blobs paired with the color gradients are lovely and quirky, but perhaps there are other ways of displaying them that could further their philosophical musings on the power behind memory and aesthetics. Whether by increasing the scale and technical achievements of her creations or delving deeper into the themes of time and space, Carley has room to grow. She is onto something, but needs to lean into her strengths to carry us further into her fantastically weird and wonderful world.
E.C. Flamming is an Atlanta-based writer. She has been published in ART PAPERS, Paste, and The Peel Literature & Arts Review.