ARTIST ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY VISUALIZES LOSS AND REBIRTH IN THE AGE OF THE ANTHROPOCENE
Responsive to the rise in global climate disasters, Rosemary Feit Covey’s speculative works solemnly imagine the landscapes of the future
Morton Fine Art is pleased to present Descartes Died in the Snow, a solo exhibition showcasing work by Washington, D.C.-based artist Rosemary Feit Covey, on view from March 3–March 31, 2022. Marking both the debut of new work and the reactivation of older works, the exhibition uncovers new dimensions within the artist’s vast oeuvre. Taken as a whole, this collection of work illuminates the fragility of life on our embattled planet, recognizing the catastrophic ecological losses that mark our current era while turning a hopeful eye towards altogether new horizons.
Covey’s current focus on environmental concerns is informed by 20 years of collaborations with scientists, during which biology, ecology, and mortality have remained steady themes of the artist’s practice. The past three decades have seen the artist rise as an established wood engraver, followed in recent years by an expansion towards mediums including experimental printmaking and mixed media. From the replication of the printmaking process to the carving of the printing block, Covey’s works attend to personal analogies of physical and emotional fortitude; through the manipulation of absence and presence, lightness and darkness, the artist evokes a darker psychological sensibility within complex figural representations.
While maintaining the artist's long-standing engagement with psychologically challenging—and oftentimes troubling—subject matter, the diversification of Covey’s mediums highlights the artist’s continued innovation in the arenas of both technique and narrative. In a titular nod to the life and work of 17th century philosopher René Descartes, Descartes Died in the Snow reflects Covey’s own artistic philosophy, that of art-as-exploration. In admiration of Descartes’ unfettered curiosity and his resulting great lengths of inquiry, Covey draws parallels with the experimental potential of artistic practice. “We artists can apply logic and intellectual research, then throw it all to the winds, allowing for alchemy and the unconscious to cross-pollinate with the natural sciences as we create,” Covey says.
Moved by recent climate disaster scenarios in South Africa—the country of her birth—Covey’s most recent work responds to the fleeting nature of news cycles and the failure of journalistic channels to manifest sustained public awareness of such crucial issues. Having witnessed this subject matter quickly fall from the front pages, Covey understands her work to serve as an enduring reminder of environmental crises within a global consciousness. Of this profound responsibility as an artist in the present moment, Covey affirms, “In this manner, I am committed to using my skills to portray this delicate balance as we reach a precipice.”
Through delicate lines that comprise masterful compositions, Covey’s work operates at the intersections of beauty and terror, depicting melancholy aesthetics of mourning. From a mass of opalescent strokes, Covey’s Broken Earth (2020) pictures a heap of carcesses, inspired by Covey’s horror of an imagined parched earth. Elsewhere, blooms of pigment suggest oil spills, and falling petals hint at impending decay. Through a push and pull, characterized by sensorial enticement segueing into gripping existential inquiry, the artist’s foreboding imagery unmasks that which is hidden in plain sight.
While often ominous, Covey’s practice nevertheless evades nihilism; through the elevation of phenomena such as fungal networks, the artist’s work also finds its purpose in illuminating the structures which sustain the planet. Resulting from Covey’s partnerships with mycologists, Amethyst Deceivers (2019) depicts the symbiotic relationships between plant and fungal life, relationships that exude restorative potential amidst times of destruction. Through the artist’s lens, Covey’s audience is issued solemn warnings of a speculative future, yet the possibilities for healing are never voided—viewers need only look closer to find them.
ABOUT ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Rosemary Feit Covey received degrees from Cornell University and the Maryland Institute College of Art, eventually relocating to Washington, D.C., where she currently lives and works. Covey has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2010.
Covey has exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad, including group exhibitions at the National Collection of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Solo exhibitions of her work have been staged at The Butler Institute of American Art; The Delaware Contemporary; the International Museum of Surgical Science; and the Evergreen Museum at Johns Hopkins University. Works by the artist are held in more than forty major museum and library collections worldwide, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art; New York Public Library Print Collection; National Museum of American History; Harvard University; and the Papyrus Institute in Cairo, Egypt.
Across various mediums, Covey has been commissioned by General Electric Astro Space, the National Institute of Science, Georgetown University, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other institutions and organizations. Covey’s literary illustrations have been commissioned and published by Simon & Schuster and William Morrow. She is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and Alpha Delta Kappa Foundation National Fine Art Award, and was the 2007–2008 Artist-in-Residence at Georgetown University Medical Center.