Push the Sky Away
acrylic, gouache, graphite, ink on paper
44" x 30"
(b. 1978 – Akron, OH) With a fully stocked library of literary, musical, and historical references from which to draw, Amber Kempthorn’s collages and drawings appear to be memory collections—somehow at once both deeply personal and broadly shared. Cultural references ranging from rock n’ roll album covers, film protagonists, and novel plots, to dollar store products, common road signs and working-class fashion trends lend a familiarity that welcome the viewer into the piece and encourage exploration of the intricately detailed space. The alternating mediums within each work delight and keep the eye moving: airbrush application, stenciling, drawing, and painting serve to create the visual divisions necessary to focus on individual vignettes, yet pull together satisfyingly into one epic whole, emulative of preceding generations of landscape painters. The viewer’s challenge in this work is to identify the narrative relationships and reconstitute a meaningful explanation and chronology for the gathered storylines. Ultimately, Kempthorn’s work triggers and calls to the surface the deep feelings in all of us of this passing life and its signposts of melancholy along the way.
In this artwork, Push the Sky Away, the artist references the potent melancholy of the 2013 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album of the same title. Kempthorn’s work, much like the album, presents a disparate array of meaningful scenes unconventionally grouped or “staged” before a single backdrop. The large, clinging woodpecker, the overturned mug, and the untethered waterslides represent our fragility against the vast, looming canopy of the cosmos and the unstoppable forward push of time.
Kempthorn received an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a BA in Art from Hiram College. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including at the Bonfoey Gallery, Cleveland, OH, Youngstown State University, Kent State University, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, Miller Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA, Burlington City Arts, Burlington, VT, and Front International 2018. Kempthorn is a Lecturer at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Adjunct Professor at the College of Wooster.