Los Angeles based artist Corey Pemberton’s latest body of work explores the intimate spaces and vulnerable places that define our notions of “home”. In his current solo show at CAM Raleigh called creature, comfort, Pemberton combines painting, photography, and hand blown glass to create visual environments that depict his subjects in both real and imagined homes. By drawing on objects and themes that the viewer can readily connect to, Pemberton closes the psychological and social gaps between otherness and familiarity.
The mixed media collages are timely reflections of the sanctity of home as a retreat from the realities of the outside world where we can truly let our hair down to be ourselves. Pemberton uses this idea as a conceptual springboard to explore his subjects at home being themselves, free from being categorized and marginalized. “One of my goals with this body of work”, says the artist via email, “ is to make the subjects relatable and intriguing, so that viewers give the subjects the time of day that they deserve, and so that viewers of all walks can see themselves in the work.”
Within this context, Pemberton’s work speaks to what can happen in the best of times, when we catch a glimpse of a life that on the surface may appear to differ from our own, yet also feels familiar; in that moment we shift our gaze from the differences to connect one another. This is particularly relevant today, during quarantine. As we let more people into our homes via Zoom conference calls and online meet-ups, we’re also revealing more of ourselves. The once-hidden hobby, the art on our walls, and the books on our shelves all become invitations to connect and relate to each other beyond arbitrary titles.
In a piece called “Tomorrow will be just as long”, a couple, rendered from a photograph, is relaxing on a couch while surrounded by the subtle signs of a long day: shoes in the hallway, a favorite drink in hand, and a loving, sympathetic embrace. The work slowly exhales, as Pemberton’s subjects leave their day behind to enjoy the comforts of home. Similarly, in “You can taste the love”, Pemberton’s couple enjoys a quiet moment as the woman looks over her partner enjoying a meal prepared for him. It’s a thoughtful, quiet gesture that’s replicated in the home’s design features that include Pemberton’s glass vases in one corner of the room and one of his paintings in the other corner depicting a woman who appears to be watching over the couple at the table.
CAM’s presentation of creature, comfort supplements the artist’s work with an installation that recreates a living room complete with furniture, a stereo, family photos (Pemberton is originally from Virginia), and houseplants. Hanging vines that appear to grow from the ceiling are shown throughout the exhibition and are echoed in his paintings and collages. For Pemberton, the plants play a very specific role: “it evokes a dreamlike feeling in an otherwise grounded scene, as to suggest that this world I’ve created where we are all equal and worthy of celebration is not reality.”
Our current times certainly remind us of this, especially when it comes to how we shelter in our homes. While Zooms and virtual parties are at their zenith, our concept of “home” as a private sanctuary has become more nebulous. As we invite co-workers, collaborators, colleagues, and strangers into our private spaces, they become more curated; what we choose to show vs what we keep hidden from view speaks to our willingness to truly be seen in our most sacred spaces.
Pemberton’s work in creature, comfort captures the complicated dynamics between the fleeting moments of transparency we reveal and the more difficult questions surrounding the privilege of transparency itself. The show is an important reminder that our most meaningful connections are made when we are willing to explore each other’s complexities after we connect to one another through our commonalities.
Corey Pemberton: creature, comfort is viewable on-line via CAM Raleigh’s website.