SNAG celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 and is honoring its membership by highlighting different artists on the SNAG website.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Emily Culver and I identify as an object maker. I am originally from rural Pennsylvania and the daughter of a carpenter and former midwife now turned nursing professor. I mention these details because I think it reflects in my work, however intentional or unintentional that may be.
I attended the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University in Philadelphia, where I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM in 2012. In 2017, I received my Master of Fine Arts in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
My current work situates itself broadly across forms and scales, ranging from body sized sculptures to hand-held objects, as well as between Fine Art, Craft and Design disciplines. I employ a vast variety of materials such as wood, ceramic, metal and rubbers while implementing both digital fabrication methods and traditional making processes in a holistic manner. While diverse in approach and method, at the foundation of my work is a sensitive and highly intended relationship between objects and the body; a quality which I feel comes from my strong background and interest in Jewelry.
What are some goals that you have while creating your work? Are there any concepts that you are particularly interested in?
I strive to create works that are a productive space of ambiguity — a space in which the work is not flat in its directiveness but also feeds the viewer enough to keep them engaged. The works which interest me the most are ones where I feel I’ve entered into a conversation with an object, but this is actually a conversation with myself. These relational conversations I create do not have a clear resolution per say, rather my goal is to create something in which I am engaged, satisfied, and sustained.
For this reason I’m particularly interested in the object and the body as concepts and all the topics that are stirred up as a result: function/non-function, identity, desire, the corporeal, sexuality, and touch to list a few. With my most recent body of work I’ve been considering more metaphysical qualities of these things such as what they are made of, how they have come to be and what potential they hold.
What does your work mean to you? Why create these objects?
There is a quote from Graham Harman, a prominent individual in current Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) discussions, which I feel sums up much of what I aspire to in my work. In his “Third Table” text he writes:
“The real is something that cannot be known, only loved. This does not mean that access to the table is impossible, only that it must be indirect. Just as erotic speech works when composed of hint, allusion, and innuendo rather than of declarative statements and clearly articulated propositions…thinking is not thinking unless it realizes that its approach to objects can only be oblique…We can only be hunters of objects, and must even be non-lethal hunters, since objects can never be caught. The world is filled primarily not with electrons or human praxis, but with ghostly objects withdrawing from all human and inhuman access. Accessible only by allusion and seducing us by means of allure. Whatever we capture, whatever table we sit at or destroy, is not the real table.”
What keeps me engaged and interested in creating work is this very idea; the fact that everything around us is far larger and more complex than we could ever understand or even imagine. I’m intrigued by the idea that I cannot fully perceive or experience things as they really are, that basically I can be wrong or ill informed. If I adapt this mentality, the world seems full of infinite possibilities that exist beyond my narrow gaze.
How has the field of metalsmithing and jewelry evolved since you began your career?
In the fall of 2012 I did a curatorial internship at the Museum of Art and Design with Ursula IIse-Neuman who was the Curator of Jewelry at the time. During those three months I spent hours researching the field of metalsmithing and jewelry, often times with a particular theme in mind for a possible upcoming exhibition. I would say it was during this time that I really began to gain a more in depth insight — I mention this to give some context to my response as an early career artist.
I suppose the most apparent evolution I see is the connection between jewelry and metalsmithing to other avenues of the Arts. It’s not that those relationships were never there to begin with, but I would venture to speculate that our field has a more developed and more rooted presence that spans more grey areas that also belong to Fine Art, Design or Architecture. As an artist that works in many different ways, I see more dialog happening across fields and the work which comes from it is absolutely exciting to me.
What are your plans for the future? Is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish in the next year?
In the fall I exhibited a new body of work titled INTO||NOT THROUGH at the Baltimore Jewelry Center that was a collection of jewelry, objects, larger sculptures and optical illusions that were embedded into wallpaper. I plan to add a few more pieces to that work over the coming months as I’m still heavily chewing on the concepts there. In addition to that, I have a few other ideas for new work as well which I hope will further push my material knowledge into new areas and become more installation based. I’m going to keep the rest of the details under wraps for now!
The past few years for me have been incredibly busy it feels, professionally but also personally. During this time, I believe that I have constructed this self imposed pressure to be hyper active and productive. Part of this is my personality of course, but I think it also stems from the anxiety of being an emerging artist. Because our world cycles so quickly and because we receive an overload of information everyday and all day, I feel it can really skew our perceptions and expectations. I’m trying to reflect on the past few years, on what I’ve learned and experienced, and I’m working towards bringing back slow intentionality and mindfulness in various aspects of my practice and life.
How and when did you first gain a membership with SNAG?
I became a SNAG member in 2016 I believe. I was in graduate school at the time and basically said to myself, “It’s about time that you made it to a SNAG conference!” That May I went to Asheville for the first time, with work in the student exhibition and even a student conference scholarship, and I had an amazing time.
More about Emily: www.emily-culver.com