Rain - Oil Refinery
watercolor, conte & oil on canvas - 72" x 51"
polymer transfer, oil & acryllic over a silkscreen
of melted plastic - 8" x 8" - 6.9
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silo
acryllic on canvas - 8.9
Ghost - Slaughterhouse
watercolor, ink, colored pencil & tar on shotgunned
collage - 22" x 30" - 7.9
pencil and tar on paper - 30" x 22" - 11.8
oil, colored pencil & sharpie on shotgunned plywood
watermedia & rust on paper
collaboration with Thatcher Gray
watermedia & sharpie on unique lithograph
with the basics. When did your journey into visual art
While I was always encouraged to express myself, it
was in high school that I became aware that one could
pursue art as a professional career.
As a writer I’ve faced the dreaded
“writer’s block” when trying to create.
Are there days where you sit down and become plagued
with your own “painters block?” If so, what
course of action do you typically take?
I go outside and get blood flowing through my brain.
There are uncountable works in process in my studio
at any one time. I explore overarching themes, many
of which surface over the years even as they are not
consistently worked. Out of these explorations there
are inevitably works that are rejected. I take those
and recycle them, transforming the surface to build
rich textures. I have enough under way that I can return
to works as the inspiration arises while letting dormant
ones lay. Also, I don’t prepare a new surface
until I know what I’m going to be painting on
In terms of inspiration, which artists,
past or present, have made the most significant impact
on you and your own work?
San Francisco based Siveya Ethersmith (duplicious.com)
instigated our mission into the missile silo. Denver
photographer Rhy Jouett (rhy.unclesteve.com) takes beautiful
macro photos of industry in decay and led a group of
artists into the abandoned slaughterhouse. Both the
slaughterhouse and the missile silo have amazing acoustics
which led to music making that helped manifest the haunted
quality of the places into the source images I gathered
while there. Other landscape artists hanging on my dash
during the creation of Reap include Jill Hadley Hooper,
Judy Pfaff, Sharon Feder, Robin Reynolds and James Cook’s
Some of your work in Reap has this juxtaposition
between these seemingly drab, cold industrial objects
(oil refineries, telephone lines) and these scattered
paint blotches and brush strokes. What inspired the
marriage of these two elements?
The scattered red paint blotches were made using a silkscreen
of blowtorched plastic. I felt like the toxic quality
of melted plastic reflected the toxicities inherent
in oil production, so echo the environmental impacts
of our consumption.
You also utilize a lot of natural, earth
tones in many of the Reap pieces, yet industry, be it
food or anything else, is so un-natural. Maybe I’m
reading too much into it, but was this intentional?
If so, why?
My work explores the interconnection of all things.
Everything is of this earth, even if it was living hundreds
of millions of years ago, as in the case of fossil fuels.
Aside from the working oil refineries, the industrial
structures I portrayed in this exhibit are in various
states of decay; melting back into the earth from which
they arose. I feel it was important to portray them
in a state of decay because we simply cannot continue
living our current lifestyle. Our food machine is a
crumbling institution which will run itself into the
ground at one point or another. Perhaps it’s just
a matter of how many of us it takes down with it.
On some of your painting descriptions you
mention they were done on “shotgunned collage”
or “shotgunned wood” I believe it was called.
For the somewhat art-ignorant like myself, what does
a painting being “shotgunned” entail?
It entails shooting the painting with a shotgun.
You watch cable news for an hour today
and you’ll probably run out of fingers and toes
to count the ills of society they point out. Out of
all these, what motivated you to choose the “American
food machine” as a focal point for your exhibit?
My son, Thatcher Gray, was born 15 months ago. As I
started feeding him solids, I took a hard look at how
Americans produce food. It struck me how the industrialization
of food production parallels the explosive growth of
degenerative illnesses. According to the Weston A Price
foundation, illness like cancer, heart disease, diabetes
and even mental illness were relatively rare a century
ago. Now we see huge out breaks, even in children, which
was unheard of just a generation ago. As most parents,
I would like my son to thrive. I feel like offering
good nourishment not only provides a strong foundation
for his physical and mental strength, but also has less
of an environmental impact which will affect the world
he and his peers inherit.
Between exhibits like Reap and movies like
Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation, it really seems like
the American food industry has been under some fire
as of late. Do you see any healthful change coming any
Absolutely. We are fortunate to live in northern New
Mexico where there is a high concentration of small
farms who grow a range of sustenance food. It is inspiring
to see what people can do with a couple of acres of
land. There are wonderful subcultures of seed savers
and raw milk producers here. Awareness and movement
towards local and sustainable food is nation wide. Whether
its individuals, including the first lady, “gettin’
their plant on” by transforming their yards into
vegetable gardens, organizations which build urban garden
plots and bring school kids in to learn how food grows,
or the proliferation of Community Supported Agriculture,
people are demonstrating a deep concern about the state
of our food production.
What can we do to avoid, I guess you’d
call it “bad nourishment” from the food
industry? Especially in tough economic times like now,
is it even possible without increasing the grocery bill?
Ideally, government would stop giving “farm subsidies”
to large machines that produce things like corn to make
additives for processed food. This makes unhealthy food
the most affordable option, but in the long run, it
will cost us all more through addressing the health
problems that are arising even now. Instead they should
be subsidizing farmers who are growing diverse crops
– even if they are grown conventionally. This
would make whole foods more accessible. One step is
to let your voice be heard.
Despite this overwhelming flaw, there are daily steps
we can take. Plant a small garden. Seek out and get
to know local growers. Many of the small farmers in
our area prefer to trade instead of deal in cash. Eat
in season: produce which is in season not only tastes
better but is often on sale. Buy from the bulk bins.
Become a label reader, and make sure you understand
the full ingredient list when you buy pre-packaged foods.
There is a fantastic little book by Ellis Jones called
The Better World Shopping Guide, which rates producers
of everything from oil to flour based on things like
environmental impact and the treatment of workers. It’s
small enough to fit in your bag. Eat less meat: never
before have humans consumed so much meat, and frankly
we are less healthy for it. Start by replacing one meat
based meal a week with a vegetarian meal. Take time
to prepare food instead of falling into the habit of
convenience foods, not only for the sake of physical
health, but to build bonds with your loved ones. I’ve
spent a lot of time abroad where I have found immense
amounts of strength in community and family as people
express their love through nourishment. It doesn’t
have to be elaborate, and it provides platforms for
rich converse or vibrant celebrations.
Besides painting, what else keeps you occupied
We are rounding out the harvest season, so I’m
putting up produce for the winter. My son keeps me on
my toes as well. Together we are setting up a little
studio for him to be able to make interpretations of
his own discoveries of the world.
What are your plans for the future? Any
new ideas, exhibits in the works?
In November, we are heading to Guatemala which interests
me because it is a culture that is deeply steeped in
a traditional reverence for the land and the crops she
offers as nourishment. In the spring I am planning to
work with Happy Goat Productions, which is a local farm
owned by a doctor of Asian medicine. She provides herd
shares so people have access to raw milk. Along with
her ancient orchards, the farm has become a strong community
builder. I’d like to create work which provides
inspiration and solutions to our current food problems
by portraying people who are taking a sustainable approach
to agriculture by returning to various traditions. I
am also very interested in exploring seeds. One of the
tremendous dangers confronting us now is big corporations,
like Monsanto, placing patents on seeds. This has the
capability of jeopardizing our future food security.
Thank you for your time. This issue will
be out November 2nd.
Thank you for taking the time to explore the concepts
October 2 - November 30, 2009: C Emerson
909 Central Avenue, Saint Petersburg, Florida