Emily Roz's paintings timelessly juxtapose lush textures with striking vibrant colors. In her latest solo show, RIPE, up now through December 28th at the Front Room Gallery in Brooklyn, she has turned her eye and ours to the intense blend of textures and colors found in magnolia seed pods, which offer up vivid colors and structures that both claw and caress the eye, with the intensity amplified by her use of shadows and light. She gracefully agreed to answer a few questions for us and to share her work on Green Spot Blue.
GreenSpotBlue: How did it all start for you? Was there a Damascene moment, a point when it hit you that you wanted to create art, or did you come to it more gradually?
Emily Roz: It was a combination of early exposure and a need to do something with my hands. I was never a kid who drew all the time, but I knitted and played piano, and always loved looking at art. The house was filled with art books.
We lived in Chapel Hill, but my parents are from Brooklyn, so we'd visit the city to see family and go to MoMA and the Metropolitan. We'd also drive up to DC a lot, and get shlepped around the East Wing and the National Gallery. Deciding to make art, as opposed to going into art history, was a back and forth struggle until the end of college.
GSB: Originally you were more focused on fiber arts, how and why did you make the transition to painting?
ER: My path to painting is a bit serpentine. In college I studied art history, literature and women's studies, and for my thesis I did spinning and weaving. After that I worked in a custom design textile studio on industrial pneumatic looms. The next job was ironing and industrial sewing. It wasn't art related, but I was good with my hands.
I went to grad school in Fiber, but did photography for my thesis piece. Eventually I exclusively shot Polaroids and made work that showed visual repetition in action movies. By 2006, it started to seem strange that I had an MFA and I didn't know how to draw. So I started drawing. Around 2010, I finally started painting, which scared me even more than drawing. Oil painting was always the pinnacle for me, and very intimidating. I wasn't ready until recently.
GSB: Were there any artists who influenced you dominantly when you were growing up, not so much in a stylistic sense, but as touchstones, work you would turn to find inspiration?
ER: As a kid I liked Bosch, Breugel, Klimt, Yves Tanguy, and Rodin. Fiction was also very important: Flannery O'Connor , Faulkner, Gogol, Camus, Sartre.
GSB: What was the first work you created where it felt like you had found your voice, so to speak?
ER: Still getting there! It'll come.
GSB: I've noticed that over the years that you seem to work in series, finding a subject matter and expanding and exploring its possibilities. How do you decide when you have finished with that exploration? Is it a matter of you reaching a point where the subject seems to have been fully mined or does something new come along and usurp your attention?
ER: See above, I tend to switch gears. Usually there's a compulsion to move forward and push myself. To learn new techniques I need to hole up and teach myself in my own ass-backwards way. There are tons of reasons each body of work taps out and runs its course. But I can see a consistent thread through all of it that always returns to textiles: pattern, repetition, and labor.
GSB: When you are working on new stuff, are you thinking in terms of putting together a show of the work in a complete manner, that is shaping the gallery space as a total experience, almost as if an installation or is that an afterthought, something that surfaces later?
ER: It's better for me to just consistently work all the time. One piece leads to the next one, and I make one at a time. I think in terms of a cohesive body of work, in that they all relate formally and conceptually, but I rarely think about the gallery space or installation part until close to the end.
GSB: What would you consider the five most essential things in your studio, the things that you could not work without (not so much materials but the ephemera though you could include materials)?
ER: 1. Snacks
2. Printed photos of my son
3. Ipod or ear plugs
5. More snacks
GSB: Has new media and technology become a part of how you work? If so, how has technology affected how you approach your work?
ER: Technology gives me anxiety. I still have a flip phone and am offline in the studio.
I am very lo-tech and avoid it as much as I can. (I hand wrote this and then typed it out.)
GSB: How would you describe your work, your aesthetic to a blind person?
ER: Like a fluffy cat rubbing up against you and purring. Or feeling the sun on your back and eating ice cream. With the cat.
GSB: What are you working on now that your show is up?
ER: I'm making more paintings based on the texture and shape of the magnolia seed pods, zoomed in and intimate, while I figure out how to push in the next direction. No idle hands.