The work of Emily Burns is the new pop. Her works have reshaped the way we look at pop art. A new and fresh generation of pop artists – her work seeks to create a dialogue about the history of imagery, primarily as it pertains to the use of the modern American female. She is interested in the evolution of these images from classical painting, photography, advertising, television, and the Internet and the subliminal messages and psychological effects they proliferate. Her compositions are created by collaging, breaking apart, and rebuilding the parallel environments of human and animal worlds, while rendering the subjects anonymous within them. She is interested in the viewer’s engagement with the characters, the distinct fallacies they represent, their connection with kitsch, and their relationship to society’s ideals.
The Deer Girl Series
“I took hundreds of photographs . . .
Later, I started combining the images
of my friends and myself, to create
the creatures in my paintings.”
In the “Deer Girl” series, she combines pop, pin-up girls and the modern American female with the faux deer. Her work is both pin-up pop-art with a sense of the woman empowered. Combining the burlesque form and animal, there is a combined sense of erotism and feminism in each work. She was inspired to paint this series while visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York, fascinated by the animal displays and family Cervidae (genus deer family). Her love of design, advertising and photography crosses over and influences her work as an artist.
Emily was kind enough to grant this interview to Featured E-Magazine.
When did you first realize you would be a professional artist?
I have been interested in art from a very early age. I have always loved to draw, but when I discovered oil painting in high school I became obsessed. My parents were always very supportive and it seemed obvious that I would go to art school. I briefly considered going in other directions off and on while in school, but nothing ever intrigued me enough to give up painting.
Can you tell us a typical day in your life?
I work a lot! I try to get up early—which is tough because I’m really a night-owl—but I find that I work really well in the morning and I like to get a jump start on the day. I also work as a designer, so I try to separate the two disciplines by painting in the first part of the day, and working with design clients later. I am always thinking about painting though, and constantly writing down ideas. In addition to that, I recently started my MFA so I have to really work hard to schedule and organize my time so I can stay productive.
“I feel a certain kinship with the deer,
and the way it is so often displayed
and exploited for its anatomy.
I am also interested in the way
the natural and the human worlds collide.”
The “Deer Girl Series” is an interesting set of paintings. What inspired you to start this series and is there a certain artistic message associated with these works?
I was inspired to create the Deer Girl series when I lived in New York City. The Museum of Natural History in New York City has the most gorgeous collection of dioramas, filled with animals and plants. I was so intrigued by the Cervidae family and their reconstructed faux habitats that I took hundreds of photographs over the course of a year. Later, I started combining the images with images of my friends and myself, to create the creatures in my paintings. I feel a certain kinship with the deer, and the way it is so often displayed and exploited for its anatomy. I am also interested in the way the natural and the human worlds collide.
How do you typically present your works for showing?
My oil paintings are exhibited unframed and my drawings and paintings on paper are framed under glass in a gallery setting,
You recently tweeted you were off to graduate school. What will be your main focus in your graduate studies?
My focus in graduate school will be the combination of art and design and how it most successfully relates the themes in my work. Female and gender studies are a big part of my work and I am excited to delve even further into feminist theory and the women’s role in the art world throughout history.
You have quite a few social media outlets (like A blog, Etsy, twitter, etc.) to showcase your work. How has social media impacted you as an artist?
Social media is an incredibly important part of my work. Partially because I am interested in how people interact with imagery, but also because the internet can be an incredible resource for emerging artists. When I left New York City to start my studio in Pennsylvania I was concerned that I would not be able to keep in touch with what was happening in the art world. While it is a great advantage to live in the city, the opportunities available to artists online are incredible and are getting better all the time. I am always discovering new galleries, artists, and publications online. It’s such a fabulous tool for an artist who is just getting started.
My recent work seeks to examine the practice of painting as a visual construction of language. No matter how bizarre or unfamiliar an image may seem, there is always some clue, some material, some process that is familiar to the viewer. I’m interested in the unique experience each viewer has with things that I make. – State College Magazine
Do you provide ‘prints’ for all of your works and where is the best place to purchase your prints?
I do not currently offer prints of all of my work, but there is a great selection of very nice prints in my Etsy store!
In 2010, you studied under Jeff Koons in New York. How did this experience impact you as an artist?
This was such a great experience for a number of reasons. It was incredible to work on projects in the studio, and be surrounded by so many talented people. It was amazing to see how a studio that is producing such large-scale, important, and incredibly well-crafted pieces operates on a daily basis. A lot of work goes into running a studio like that. However, I wasn’t able to spend enough time on my own work so I decided to come back to Pennsylvania. I definitely enjoyed living in the city though, and it is an experience I would recommend to anyone.
How was the Vermont Studio Center Residency and how did this residency influence your work?
I highly recommend residencies like VSC to emerging and established artists alike. This was such an incredible experience and I am so glad that I was able to attend the residency last year. I met such a wonderful and talented group of people there, and made some life-long friends. You can never have too many artist friends! This was my second residency, and the first one I attended at VCU was also totally amazing. I can’t wait until my next one! It is always a good idea for an artist to break out of their routine and normal studio space, and see how your ideas flesh out somewhere new. I can’t stress enough the importance of having other artists in your life. The conversation and dialogue is so important, and it’s tough to really engage with someone about your work unless they truly understand art and the art world.
What projects are you presently working on and where do you see yourself going with your art in the next few years?
I am currently working on a few large-scale deer girl paintings as well as transitioning into a new series of portraits. The portraits are realistic paintings based on photographs of people who I have known throughout my time in Central Pennsylvania. I am looking forward to compiling a large body of new paintings which will be exhibited in both group and solo shows. Stay tuned!
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Emily Burns is an artist and photographer from Warrenton, Virginia and lives and works in Lamont, Pennsylvania and New York City.