Artist Spotlight: Emily Gherard

Joy Thigpen

Erin Langner: It is interesting that you find so much inspiration from walls and rocks, which seem like fairly innocuous objects. How did your work with these subjects come about?

Emily Gherard: The walls and rocks stared as substitutes for figures and piles of paint. When I started thinking about them, I was still doing mostly figurative work, making piles of homogenous figure blocks. Those blocks slowly started becoming more solid and concrete, kind of as a way to mark out space. I was also hiking and drawing things from the environment, at the time. I was fascinated by the experience of finding a rock and just looking at it, thinking about the way it can be both everything and nothing.

I find myself more and more drawn to these subjects, again and again, and there doesn’t seem to a point at which when I lose interest in them. I make them more abstract or less abstract, more figurative or less figurative; they hold a lot for me. They are both a landscape and a figure. I particularly like the way that they don’t directly represent a person, unlike a shoe, or a nameable building, or something that made by a human. They are more masses and forms that can be humans while being completely non-human.

EL: Your palette is also fairly monochromatic. You work mostly with whites, blacks and grays—colors often associated with the Northwest. Do you ever find that limiting?

EG: [Laughs] I’m definitely inspired by the Northwest. I love the rain. It’s perfect. I think the fall here is the most visually stimulating season. I have a job now that requires commuting to Bellingham, Washington twice a week, which is a gorgeous drive that has been inspiring millions and millions of ideas.

I think the work is actually getting less colorful lately. I just started getting into making egg tempera, which doesn’t deepen the colors as much as oil.  The tempera takes all of these familiar pigments that I’m used to working with and gives them this completely new experience. It’s a whole new palette with the same palette. It’s kind of exciting.

I don’t ever find my palette limiting. It’s like having a conversation with only a few close friends. You wonder, am I going to get sick of these people? But, you don’t.

Excerpt from an interview with New American Paintings. See more of the interview here and Emily Gherard’s site (with a lot more beautiful work).