Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Say hello to Emily Ann Pothast

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.

Emily Pothast


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.

Divine Intervention 2, 2005
Would you talk about how mysticism relates to your work? How does mystical differ from spiritual?
I guess for me "spirituality" is a broad category, which may or may not involve "mysticism," which I would define as anything that puts a person in direct apprehension of that mysterious source—however fleeting.I have always been interested with religion and spirituality, but my personal relationship with what I call mysticism stems directly from the experience of having both of my parents killed by a drunk driver three years ago today (December 23). I was really close to my parents, especially my mom, and it nearly destroyed me. I sort of stumbled through a divorce a few months later and felt for the first time what it was like to be completely alone. I had all of my assumptions about reality destroyed in a very short period of time and basically rebuilt my entire life from the ground up. Aside from a few essays and art pieces for Rivet Magazine, I really didn't do much of anything for about two years except go to work and try to fix myself with DIY depth psychology.

Drift, 2008

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.
Instant Values! 2, 2006
I'm always interested in finding out who other artists like. Who's work do you like here in the Northwest? I'm going to go out on a limb and going to suggest Jeffry Mitchell (sacred geometry) and Matthew Offenbacher.
Yes and Yes. I like a number of artists for a number of reasons. I love intense, meticulous craftsmanship and I love emergent things that are made out of millions of other things. Most of all I love evidence of psychological and spiritual growth. I have blogged about several of the artists I like (i.e. Anne Mathern, Claire Cowie, Lauren Grossman, Kimberly Trowbridge, John Grade, etc.) I have yet to write about others, including but not limited to Jeffrey Simmons, Robert Yoder, Gretchen Bennett, Tim Roda, Susan Robb and Kim E. Anderson, Jr, whose lovely drawings I just discovered via the current show at SOIL.
In addition, I am optimistic about the collaborative spirit that is currently growing in the Seattle art community, from Matthew Offenbacher's "La Especial Norte" to all the excellent artist-run galleries. Your artist interviews are a great example of this community building. I agree with Matthew: you are totally the [slightly furrier] Terry Gross of the Seattle art world!

Axis Mundi, 2008
Your blog, translinguistic other, is really great! I just don't think we can have enough of arts coverage here in Seattle. What made you start the blog and where would you like to see it go?
Thanks! I have been meaning to start blogging forever and just recently got around to it. I've always felt like I should be writing about things like religion, spirituality and mythmaking, and I recently discovered that writing about art is a convenient way to take other people with me into those murky waters. This realization was inspired by the first couple shows I reviewed (Anne Mathern/Chad Wentzel and Lauren Grossman). I would love to see this blog or a new one take off and become something bigger, possibly incorporating additional features and other voices besides my own.

Eternal Return, 2008

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Emily!
Thank you for this opportunity.
Eternal Return can be seen at Grey Gallery & Lounge through February 10, 2009.


Anonymous said...

Emily is truly a gift to Seattle. Her talent never retires. It is an honor to know this woman.

Unknown said...

love me some pothast

shauniqua said...

those who know her love her, it is true.