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Where are you from originally and where do you live currently?

I was born and raised in Baltimore but I've called Philadelphia home for the last five years.

What's the background on this series? What inspired these paintings?

This past year I went on a few trips to Atlantic City and visited family in Reno, each time staying at a local casino-hotel. I love to swim so my first move is to find the hotel pool and I'm always struck by how odd they are! Some people are having the best day of their lives, some are having the worst, buffered by people who are just having a vacation. Casinos are really into portraying an image of opulence so there are plants and copies of Greek and Roman statues but, at least in Atlantic City and Reno, they don't quite get it right. The chaise lounge chairs are a little scuffed up and worn out. The locker rooms smell like dirty socks. These spaces are filled with hope though; most people in that building think that they are going home with more money than they brought.

People who consider themselves part of the cultural elite sneer at casinos for being the epitome of mindless, disengaging ways to have fun. I understand that reaction; in many ways these places are stifling and sad. But they're also places where people from different economic and cultural strata gather in the hopes of improving their quality of life, or at least having a good time, and I think that writing casinos off as bread and circuses is lazy. Casinos promote themselves as amazing destination vacations where everyone's a winner, so by that logic, its hotel pools are huge puddles full of attractive newly-made millionaires. I intended to make paintings that depict these weird spaces in a more nuanced way.

Your style of painting, rough brushstrokes and quick gestures, seems like that of a self-taught artist. Are you self-taught and if not why paint in this matter?

I have a BFA in painting. I combine elements associated with “outsider” art—clunky forms, heavy use of surface color—with the composition sense that I picked up in art school. For this series, I made paintings that are highly gestural and more about empty space than positive space. The prevailing imagery depicting places that sell the idea of fun is polished and focus-grouped. I wasn't interested in replicating that in my paintings.


On your website there's a section on Zines and Comics. Can you tell us about this part of your work?

I've been involved in the indie comics scene for just over a year now, and I love it. So much of my work is narrative; writing and illustrating stories makes sense for me because I can control the pacing of the story and narrative arc. My latest comic, Club Queen Rat Queen, was just put out by Ray-Ray Books and is available at their online store and on my etsy shop.

You describe your artwork as "fantastical scenes (that) convey a sense of unease." What does the fantasy part mean to you as an artist?

My paintings are fantastical in that they contain figures that don't exist in places that don't exist. I often include markers and talismans meant to represent real things, but only ones that further my paintings. I try to make work which conveys a mood rather then a moral stance. To that end, building a fantasy landscape which may or may not look a lot like a real place is more conducive than showing spaces which are already known.

Emma's website, tumblr and etsy shop.


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