"Emily Prince is a recent graduate of Stanford University, and a post graduate candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Most notably, Prince’s ongoing project entitled American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (but Not Including the Wounded, nor the Iraqis nor the Afghans) was recently featured in the 52nd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Rob Storr."
And so our conversation begins...
Last year you were part of the Venice Biennial, congratulations! How did it feel to be selected? What was it like showing with other incredible artists for such a well known exhibit?
It just felt lucky, actually. I think there was a lot of serendipity involved - one person would see the work and put it in another context, passing it along to the next certain person, who would reframe it again, and so on, until Robert Storr saw it and decided to put it in the show.
And if it had been another time, perhaps he wouldn't have... so, a convergence. Once I was there and saw the other works in the show I felt pretty honored to be among them, a little stunned, really.
The drawings for your show at Eleanor Harwood Gallery were fantastic! I think sometimes we have so much stuff in our homes and we become blind to it. We then forget why any of it was important to us in the first place.
Your drawings in this show brought me back to this thought. They made those invisible objects visible again.
What were your thoughts going into that show? What led up to it? How was the opening night?
My thoughts leading up to this show... I had recently finished school and moved to San Francisco. My house was new to me, and since I was in this state of moving, of limbo, I didn't really feel at home yet.
On the simplest level I just wanted to get to know my environment. The ideas/feelings of home are something I rely on heavily - to be ok, I mean. Perhaps this was a self-prescribed "art therapy", though I don't think I ever had that thought explicitly.
My conceptualization of them developed throughout the process, as is commonly the case for me: beginning largely by intuition and recognizing layers of meaning along the way. These drawings resonated for me in many ways... how we construct ourselves through our environment and how we shape it simultaneously, a feedback loop constantly in flux... how we identify ourselves with what we collect and whether that can or cannot tell you who a person is... what do we hold on to and what do we need...
Also, this project helped me to begin to build my practice. I realized in the making of it that I find map-making very satisfying (but with the term "map" loosely defined). For instance, this is in a way a portrait of my home, but not one holistic, discreet image; rather, it's a compilation of all its singular pieces; but they are all laid out in various connections at the same time, like an ecosystem.
There is something really personal about your cursive hand writing in the "American Servicemen and Women." Do you sense that as well? Do you write in cursive always or was that a conscious choice for this project?
I have two different handwritings: printing and cursive. I use the printing when things are brief - it's tidy and I've been told looks like "scientists' writing" - but when I have to write more the cursive is faster to do and so it comes in handy.
In this project there was a lot of writing to be done, so in on a pragmatic level it made the most sense to use my cursive. And it being in my handwriting was a must. I felt it accentuated the personalization, the artifact of the human involved.
Can you talk a little about the murals you did for the Watershed Project in Richmond. An article in the UC Berkeley news referred to it as "a strong area of interest for Prince." In what way is this statement true?
Yes! Last year I volunteered with The Watershed Project in Richmond. They were working to restore some marshland on Richmond Point, which involved getting rid of weeds and growing native plants to put in their place. I learned a lot; I even did a mini restoration of coastal prairie grasses in my back yard.
Then they asked me to paint a mural and I said, "Yes!" I made silhouettes of seven different plants we grew, each picked by one of the seven people I worked with there. (Lupine and sticky monkey flower, for instance.) Native plants are an ongoing interest for me. If I'd had to choose another path in life it might have been as a botanist.
What/who are your major life influences? What are other things apart from art you like to do that keep you excited about life?
There are many influences for me: Mister Rogers, grass, the sound of hawks singing to each other, Henry Darger, Sol Lewitt, Wolfgang Laib, Randy Newman, my grandmother, weavers, bees.
In life I am always excited about cooking and the love I have for my sweet friends, and any time I get to go "back home" to the mountains where I grew up. Lately I have llamas on my mind.
Eleanor Harwood Gallery
Monday, February 04, 2008