Artists: Emily Caldwell
Recently I was on one of my ambitious phases where I decide a long term project sounds like something I have the attention span for. So I decided to kick off an artist series photoblog. The goal of it being to draw attention to local artists of every kind and how their art (and art in general) has shaped their lives. I wanted to specifically focus on every-day artists because I think those are the people who we, as every-day people, can relate to and understand best. Also because I was fresh out of famous people to contact.
Art is something that speaks to everyone in some way, either bad or good, and artists are like the mysterious mediums to this other world. This post marks the first of what I hope will be many posts about local artists of every kind. Each month we'll see a new artist, and hear a new tale of how art has told the story of their lives. I hope you're as excited about this as I am, because I'm pretty freaking excited.
This month's artist is Emily Caldwell. I met Emily a few years ago after seeing her senior exhibition at Cedarville university. Emily is an amazing abstract impressionist painter with a wonderful eye (and hand) for her craft. She was gracious enough to let me barge in on her studio in Centerville and watch her work.
"I have always been the one in the friend group that was drawing little pictures for your friends, I was in AP art in high school, but I was not very good. When I got to college I knew I wanted to do something with art but I absolutely did not want to do graphic design, and at cedarville the only other option was studio art. So I did that, and stuck with it ever since. Now I don't understand why I ever thought I would do something else."
Emily has been doing art since she was a child. She described to me the sense of perfection that followed her throughout her art,
"I was always the one with the coloring books, but It had to be done beautifully, and perfectly in the lines...my dad is super creative: he doesn't paint or anything, but he would always draw me pictures and let me color them in, I never did well in school I didn't really like any of my classes apart from art".
I asked Emily about the creative oppression that seems to come from studying art at a professional level. She recalled her experience as being good, but definitely a challenge:
"I actually struggled a lot my Junior year, like they almost kicked me out. Not because the ability wasn't there I don't think...I hope (laughs), but my stuff was so bad because I was working in this tiny little studio, and I didn't get along with my teachers, and I was going through a hard time, I was like 'why can't you do this?'"
In her senior year, though, she came around and started to break away from the rigor that comes with majoring in art and her work definitely shows it.
I asked the million dollar question "What is art?" there's not really an answer to that, and if there is: everyone has a different one. She shared the sentiment:
"My freshmen year we had to write a whole paper on what art was. My paper was the worst thing, I did it the night before: I didn't know how to answer the question. I'm like 'that's such a broad question: how do you answer that? My senior year they made us get out our papers and read them again and rewrite them. I still did horrible"
"As far as like 'what is art?' I think I look at it as, I mean in my mind: I know art can't always be beautiful: but I feel like it's everything beautiful. It's like a window into the Lord's ultimate creativity. Even just a little peek: if you can tap into that at all. Or just a tale as old as time. It's always been here and it seems to always come back or stay. You can learn so much from the history and it always seems to tie back to the past."
Emily told me she's recently been interested in combining repeated patterns and hard lines to create a contrast. In the painting she's working on here she told me she had taken a picture from a concert and reworked it: combining it with the repeated pattern on the right.
"I always in my mind want this beautiful pristine pattern that looks like it's wallpaper: but I can't stand that so It turns into something different.
"I am hugely inspired by John Singer Sargent, which is interesting because he mostly does portraits and realism portraits, but if you see his stuff it blows your mind. His brush strokes: if you see his stuff up close it's not exactly perfect, but if you back up...it's crazy.
So him, Roy Lichtenstein: I just so admire the ability to work like. To make something look like that, so perfect, and to have the patience to do that. Van Gogh of course, Degas, De kooning, Edward Hopper, there's just so many. People that I actually know, that's hard, I don't know many artists. "
I asked her how art had shaped her. Emily recalled that really art didn't become a significant shaping force until college. It was through her study of art that she realized she had been given a gift and that God didn't intend for her to set it up on a shelf, but to use it.
"it's given me a direction and where I'm going, It's given me something I'm truly passionate about, and want to do: I don't know in what form yet, but something. Just an insight into the Lord's plan for me. That was the 'woah' moment for me like: this is a big deal, it's not just something I think is fun. I don't think I'll ever be able to master the craft, I don't think anyone does, but It gives you that drive to be the best you can be, whether people think you're going to succeed or not. Especially with something like this that the world doesn't think is valid unless you're like Andy Warhol or something."
The last thing I asked Emily was how art acted as a form of expression for her.
"I tend to be emotional, not like crying everywhere or anything: but everyone knows how I'm feeling, I don't really keep those things inside. So it's not really 'express my emotions' or anything, it's more like I get so much out of the processes.
To me you can tell what I was going through if you look at my brushstrokes by how hard they are or how soft they are...you can tell by how thick the paint is or where the drips are: At least I can (laughing), probably not anyone else can, but I can. It's something about the process to me, I want the finished product to be something I'm proud of and something I can share, but it's more like...I just want to do it. This little studio is where I come when I need to be alone, this is where I can be and work through anything I'm going through. It's my little sanctuary. Just putting paint on the canvas is an outlet for me. It brings me peace.
Emily's work is on display in various places, including "Salon Restored" in Centerville, above which she works. You can check out her bio and some of her work at Emilycaldwellart.com or on facebook at Emily Caldwell Art.