Diane Solomon Kempler’s current show at Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery is aptly titled “Divine Chaos.” Drawing from experiences during several extended visits to India, Kempler borrows heavily from the visual language of religious shrines, and their junction with everyday life. The show is an installation of sorts, combining ceramic works with floor drawings, photographs, and spare text. Kempler clusters everything together in an informal way, in keeping with the style and content of the film installed in the adjoining room. Kempler’s film is a document of her time spent with two families of Indian ceramicists, showing their process and how their completed works—objects of religious art—are integral to the life of the community.
The ceramic works in the show are brimming with textures and amorphous forms, lightness, and gravity. Some are identifiable derivatives of temples or shrines, others emphasize the human form, and still others are mixtures of both. Kempler seamlessly joins her existing style with elements gleaned from her travels; “Divine Chaos” seems to be less a departure than a well-considered addition. Her fragile and delicate figures gain an otherworldly quality—hybrids of time and space, between our here-and-now and another. The artistic act becomes an intercessor between heaven and earth.
This, I think, is the essence of Kempler’s India and the art she found there. It’s a form of alchemy; through the daily work of the artist, clay is drawn from the earth and transformed into objects of both divine and daily use. This is an attractive notion for Western secular artists as well: waking up in the morning, having a cup of coffee, and then spending the rest of the day molding clay into objects of recognized public value and devotion. The images central to Indian religion are often hybrids of form — both man and beast, bridging one realm to another. “Divine Chaos” is built upon the same impulse: the attempt to conjure the intangible from the corporeal, using the earth to call the heavens.
Kempler will speak about her work in an artist talk on April 16 at 7PM. “Divine Chaos” is on display at Emory Visual Arts Gallery through April 24.