Tuesday, December 22, 2009

INTERVIEW REPRINT: Stephen Orloske interviews Emily Wilson

This is our second reprint of an interview by Steven Orloske, originally posted on the Borough Gallery and Studio's blog. I saw the piece Looking Inside Out (three images of which can be seen in this review) in the hallway outside the Borough Gallery last week, and was completely absorbed by it for at least half an hour. It is a complex, engaging installation, mounted with perfect craftsmanship. Emily says that she will leave it up through the end of January. But, "since the SEABA entrance has inconsistent open hours right now," Emily says, "appointments can be made to view the piece by sending me an email at ewilson.art@gmail.com " -- JVF, ed.

Stephen Orloske: Your installations seem to burst, like they’re in the process of organic growth, yet they also have a careful, mathematical structure to them. What’s it like creating that effect? Is it mostly play, or agony to get it right?

Emily Wilson: This piece exemplifies the true process of site specific installation and the overall transformation of space, materials and limitations. I worked mostly from inspiration of the physical space. Responding to the layers of mortar and brick as well as the skylight, overall wall height and the room layout. I essentially was bursting during the actual installation. It was very physical. Full of movement, rhythm, gesture. It represents the energy, enthusiasm and ethic I have for my work. I wanted to create something that allowed others to step into a world that is completely created by me. The layering of colors, values of buttons and repetition are all intentional and especially constructed for this piece, in this space, for this show. At the end and nearer to its full completion I began to edit and add various components, which was challenging and the only part that became grueling. I was looking for a specific balance, simplicity and overall startling affect, which initially was hard to achieve. But as I became more familiar with the piece, within the space, I was able to finally distinguish what needed to be done in order to finish.

SO: If your installations start with the space, have you ever walked into space where you’ve been asked to create and felt intimidated or stumped? Have you ever had a space where you and it just did not get along?

EW: Only once that I really, really remember. Actually, it was one of the more important learning experiences in my artistic career. There was a project I was committed to in a corridor space. It was two walls outside of a gallery space and was a travel way for students to and from the stairs. There were two staircases that led up to this area, and two stairways that went to the level above. The walls were 10 feet high by 22 feet long, on both sides of a set of double doors that were in the middle, that led to the gallery. It wasn’t a challenging space, per se. It was relatively familiar. However, I thought I had developed this great plan, and I had, on paper. I had designed a piece that I thought was powerful, uniform, responded to the movement of the space, reached for simplicity, but had an overall impact. When I got there, I unpacked and took out my drawings and plans. And I had planned it so carefully I did exactly what I planned on paper… measured down to nails. 8 or 10 hours later, I stepped back. Done. Excited, because it looked exactly like my drawing, exactly what I wanted this planned, conceived project phenomenon to be. I left satisfied. The next day, as I approached the stairs as any other student would that day, I looked at the piece. And was so unimpressed. So lifeless, so perfect, so idealized. It didn’t respond to the space or communicate with it. Rather, it sat, placed on the wall, like a drawing. Planned, mediated, framed, matted, and hung. That night I took it down. I used the materials to build something within the limitations of the space, while trying to mimic the excitement and energy that Williams, the Art Building had. The next day when I approached the same stairs as I had the day before, I was psyched because it worked! I was interested in my own work on a whole new level and realized how essential the total engagement with the space is, and more so realized that the space is just as much a material as paint or paper is… it has color, depth, texture, mass amount… you respond to watercolor one way, you respond to brick in another.

SO: Your windows and paintings still have the same energy as your installations, yet they can’t start with a space. Where do you start with those pieces?

EW: They still start with space. In a sense I build my works from the medium I have, the limitations of the space I can work within, and other constraints. For example, I usually approach a new project with a very simple idea or inspiration. A quick thought about something I’m curious about or find appealing, and then I turn to what I have. Whether it be an 8′ by 10′ canvas, a postcard -sized piece of watercolor paper or a new storm window, I choose something to spark my interest further. Then I turn to unique materials and try to catch the specific energy, inspiration, and innovation in a two -dimensional or three -dimensional form, specifically in a design -oriented manner. Drawing is the best way for me to capture the exact product that I hope for or urge for in painting, installation and sculpture. I learn from my drawings the path to building other things. Even if they are not exact replicas of each other, they stem from each other and in turn progress each other.

SO: Is there any non-artistic, or non-creative activity that you do that in turn inspires or aids your art?

EW: I am not sure anything I do is non-artistic or -creative. I've realized that I approach most of what I do as a project, maybe even an installation project. Most of my daily tasks have the goal of being aesthetically pleasing and completed timely - in order to create a living environment I can flourish in. From folding clothes, to putting away the dishes to making my bed; each activity becomes a project in itself. I also have a lot of collections. I collect scarves, bags, funky jewelry, tea cups, small dishes… Each one of those have been inspirational in one way or another. I am also active. I like to run and hike… which might enhance the overall physicality of my pieces.

SO: When you were five what did you think your life at twenty-five would be like?

EW: I think I pictured myself as a grown up. Thinking it was much like playing house and setting up my dollhouse. I had mature hobbies at a young age, which enabled me to develop an extreme taste in home decoration and design. I remember thinking of grown up outfits and shoes… I never really thought of exactly what I would be doing for a job etc. Maybe that's why I am struggling now! But, the real answer is I think I always pictured myself being a grown up version of what I was then. Doing the same things I did then, but better because I could have my own house to set up in and car to drive. Ive been on an artistic journey since I was born. Going through phases of interest, talent, motivation and development.

You can read more about Emily Wilson on her blog at www.emilynwilson.wordpress.com

Images above: "Looking Inside Out" 8' x 12', ribbon, yarn and nails, site specific installation Borough Gallery & Studio Entrance