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Art & Life with Emily Silver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Silver.

Emily, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Originally from upstate New York. I went to college in NYC at the School of Visual Arts, where I focused primarily in sculpture. Throughout school, I had many jobs to help pay the bills, usually as an artist assistant or as a floral designer, with the occasional art handler position at a few galleries in Chelsea. These mashup of jobs to survive in NYC were. I believe, where my real life education began. The hustle of being an artist and a broke student in NYC breaks you in the best way possible. Some days I’d be grinding the rust of an artist’s van or weeping while cleaning another’s toilets, all to leave and go set up a wedding that evening. The weaving in and out of other people’s studios, lugging my items across the city, and letting that slow beating of the city wear on me was a really rich beautiful developmental time. I was there through 911, I could see it, smell it and taste it that day. That day changed me, and in its reflection, I see the residuals of that event peeking through the way I live my life and in my work.

Later I went to grad school in Pennsylvania, where I ended up being offered a fellowship which included teaching sculpture and drawing courses throughout my time there. I never wanted, so I thought, to teach. I was clearly wrong when being handed half the football team one summer to teach how to draw was when I realized this was a path worth following. Upon finishing my program I was offered a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Penn State, where I taught between the Sculpture and Painting Departments, it was an incredible year, I then taught their abroad program in Italy that summer. Thinking I would land back in NYC after that gig, I met a special person (classic love story), and we moved to Los Angeles almost right away.

Not knowing anyone in LA, and not being part of the local grad school scene it was super difficult to make friends or be a part of the art community at first. I found myself working full time in a mortuary making flowers for funerals, spending my lunch breaks eating alone in the cemetery and clearly not making any friends at work. This was a really lonely time, but one of the best times for me. I was working a job that fed directly to my practice.

Fast forward, I’m now on the faculty at Santa Monica College, where I have been for the past seven years. I moved my studio out to Yucca Valley, CA (near Joshua Tree) just over three yrs ago. I started a little labor of love a blog and podcast @curatejoshuatree, www.curatejoshuatree.com, where I interview local artists in the desert, in hopes to build community and archive all the amazing things happening out there.

I only ever thought I would be forever an NYC girl, I had no idea I would find myself in California or my heart in the desert. Out in the desert, there is this silence and stillness similar to the cemetery, where you can really listen not to just yourself but to the space around you, you can hear the subtly in your thoughts and the vast landscape. It feels limitless for the creative process.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I have been thinking a lot about this right now, as my work and life are shifting and changing. Primarily I make objects, or at least my process starts with the object and from their sprouts drawings, paintings and most recently animations/videos.

Historically in my work, I have investigated the rise and fall of events in our culture, the way the celebratory rises and quickly falls. The arc of an event or celebration is such a curious thing to me. We use these moments to tell time, to create ritual, build community, create tradition, or reflect on what’s past. Think birthdays, parades, festivals, funerals. All of these moments seem monumental for a moment, and in such a slight turn become a nuisance. We go from “#livingmybestlife” to “OMG never again”. There is the perfect comedy in this, where we go from celebration to failure. Beauty and the grotesque. That little edge in between is what and where I like to make work about.

This is rooted for sure in my history as a Floral Designer, being roughly 20 blocks from the Twin Towers, and my time working in a mortuary. The eb and flow of being witness to beauty and tragedy, the rawness of real base human reaction and feelings resonate with me. Things like noticing that moment in loss that the reflection and agony is of vibrancy. Under it all, I make work about being human, growing older, passing of time and death. But I cover it in hot pink and shove a baseball bat through it.

Recently the new work starts to play with the use of social media as a material. I have been making little animations on Instagram and playing with different video software. Still investigating the same ideas, but toying with this platform and its tools. We are so glued to our technology, and the ritual of scrolling, watching stories or using emojis to describe things. Our attention span seems to be shortening, even more, the need for instant gratification is wild, all while at the same time being a space that can build community from a distance and be a platform to be heard. There is something celebratory and playful about emojis, gifs, stories, tight grids (the kids just taught me that term), but also something sad and pathetic about it all, which I love.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
I am not sure there is one role of an artist.

I don’t know if our role has changed if there is a specific role to speak to, historically there’s always a lot of shit going on in the world, and we see great work being made during those times.

There is just more exposure and accessibility for artists and their work due to social media and internet stuff. I can see there is a big shift for dealers and galleries, and this would be a great question for someone working in that line of the art world.

I’d say my work is always a reflection of what is going on in the world, it might not be overt, but we tend to react or shift in ideas when things around us have a big impact. It just might not be obvious at the moment.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have an Instagram I try to keep up to speed @emilysilverstudio
My website www.emilysilver.net
My podcast @curatejoshuatree and www.curatejoshuatree.com

I am opening a gallery with another artist Stephanie DiGregorio this winter in Yucca Valley called UnPaved. @unpavedgallery

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.emilysilver.net
  • Email: emmysilver@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @emilysilverstudio
  • Facebook: emilysilver
  • Other: @curatejoshuatree

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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