Holy Mountain, 2008
Hi Emily! I wanted to chat with you after seeing Eternal Return. One of my favorite things about you is your variety of self-expression. You make visual art, music and write. The bonus is you're really good at all three! You're like the Beyoncé of the art world!
Ha! I prefer to think of myself as the "Michael Jordan of the golf world" of the art world.
You and David Golighty have formed a duo called Midday Veil. The music I've heard feels a bit like watching the birth of humanity from space. Sarah Brickner (Seattle Weekly) described it as, "If you ate some mushrooms and wanted to take a spiritual journey, this is the kind of thing you might put on the stereo...it would induce one hell of a trip." How would you describe it?
Well, from now on I'm going to describe it as "watching the birth of humanity from space." That couldn't be more perfect, actually! I have a little bit of a background in music, but I only started writing songs and taking them seriously very recently. I'm really influenced by singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, and also by female folk and jazz singers like Odetta, Sarah Vaughan and Bessie Jones.
I played a few shows earlier this year as a solo act, using loopers and various instruments to accompany myself, but as soon as I started playing shows with David I wasn't really interested in playing alone anymore. I'm more interested in what happens when I mix my thing with something else entirely, which is what David brings to the table. David has a music degree and he's influenced by 20th century composers like Xenakis, Stockhausen and Terry Riley. In Midday Veil, he more or less improvises on vintage analog synthesizers while I set up my loops and sing. The synth accounts for that "cosmic" effect that feels like you're in outer space. I love the tension between the electronic and acoustic sounds. Plus, there's nothing like working collaboratively to help keep your ego in check.
What's happening with Midday Veil in 2009?
An expanded band, for starters. We've already begun rehearsing with Simon Henneman on guitar and we're going to see if we can't get started with a rhythm section after the new year. David and I are also slowly but surely recording and editing material for an album. We will release something in 2009 if it kills me.
The Holy Bible: New American Revision, 2005
I first saw your art at the UW MFA show in 2005. What I remember most was "The Holy Bible: New American Revision". It was a great piece in which you had blacked out anything positive, leaving only words with negative connotations/meanings. The end result was a bible full of black marks and words/phrases like rape, murder, death, "shed the blood". The black marks made it feel censored. And the remaining words were bleak. Was it more of a statement on Christianity or America?
Both. I studied printmaking in college and I'm obsessed with religion, so I'm very interested in the symbolic power of the written word and the impact of the printing press on Protestantism and eventually American Christianity (which is an entire category of its own). It's mostly about how the Bible is, historically speaking, a fluid document open to multiple interpretations but that we Americans have allowed a very narrow, divisive definition of Christianity dominate our discourse. This piece was made right after the presidential election in 2004, when I was, like many Americans, feeling like I had just been sucker punched in the soul by the evangelical Christians who turned out in droves to re-elect a shockingly unqualified sock puppet just because he got a perfect score on their nasty little two question spirituality quiz. This is the Bible for that culture of hate. It is not the same deeply symbolic, multifaceted--and yes, flawed--collection of sacred literature it is when it's on my shelf.
The Holy Bible: New American Revision (detail), 2005
I've heard Sagittarians are on a spiritual journey. Would you say spirituality is the primary driver in your visual art?
Yes. I would say that spirituality is the primary driver in everything all of us does, whether we care to notice or not. What I mean by that is, we're all made out of nature, and nature is made out of patterns. Slippery, sentient math from a mysterious, unknowable source. I am not uncomfortable calling that source God, although I can understand why many thoughtful people find that concept too horribly disfigured from centuries of abusive anthropomorphism to consider reclaiming it.
Sometime in the fall of 2007, David taught me how to play guitar and everything fell into place from there. The immediacy I was able to experience while making music removed the last remaining obstacles to my creativity and I started compulsively making things during every waking second. The work in Eternal Return was all made in the last year and it documents my process of coming back to life. Conceptually, it's all about tearing things apart and rebuilding them. The images are tangentially related to the "stained glass" collage pieces I made in grad school and just after, but the shapes are much more abstract now, and my sense of geometry has become increasingly intuitive and metaphysical.
Axis Mundi, 2008
Eternal Return, 2008
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Emily!