work on paper     

Artist Statement

Emilie Clark

For many years now my work has been in dialogue with the history of science and natural history. Transformation and restrictive, durational structures that have a relationship to my daily life, have been among the key underlying connections across all of my work. In the last fifteen years my practice has involved inserting myself into the life and work of 19th century female scientists—taking on the work they did but in the context of my 21st century, mostly urban life. I treat my studio like a laboratory—one that changes as the projects change. I work from close observation, often using a microscope, preparing and preserving botanical and zoological specimens of my own collection. I work in the field as well as in historical archives. The work involves drawing, painting, sculptural installations, writing and research. In recent years my practice has also extended to working in urban school communities where my working process is used as an alternative model for students and others to learn about science. While my projects have included many different areas of science, I have been particularly focused on ecology and the environment. Along side this central focus, I work with medical scientists making illustrations based on the trajectory and enactment of their research rather than the representation of a particular concept, and finally, I’ve been involved in a number of collaborative projects with poets.

Work for New Hampshire Exhibitions
Much of the work included in these two exhibitions is from an on-going project called “Meditations on Hunting” and a new project called “Earth’s Household.” These bodies of work represent a departure from my normal process of inserting my self inside the lives and work of nineteenth century women. I no longer feel that I need to have the restrictive structure of working from one figure—in part because these women’s lives have become integrated into my own—my practice, my way of thinking, my way of living and working--my world—in a way I’ve become one of them. Following my previous project “Sweet Corruptions” (which departed from the work of Ellen Richards) I became increasingly pre-occupied with thinking about the literal translation of the word ecology – “earth’s household”. And I suddenly understood that for most of my life, I had been trying to understand just that. If air, water and soil are what biologically make up the earth's household, one is faced with the overwhelming reality that those three things touch and connect everything. And what does everything look like, what does it feel like and how is it connected?

With “Meditations on Hunting” I wanted to go backwards in the food sequence and investigate the parts of the meal and the worlds out of which they come (air, water, soil) and see how my environment would change through the experience of hunting for food. Whereas “Sweet Corruptions” dealt with the physical manifestation of my food waste, “Meditations on Hunting” confronts the physical properties of my environment in macro and micro dimensions. Air, water and food take on new meaning as they relate to the natural environment during the hunt, and as I try to understand how creatures move through the woods and water, being aware of time, incremental shifts in weather, wind, smells, flora, my own body. After the hunt, preparing the meat and then taxiderming the body has immersed me in another dimension of understanding the animal and its environment.

This last year I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily need to be hunting to occupy my household with an acute sensory experience. This has been an important shift as I’m no longer restricted by hunting seasons and being in New Hampshire versus New York City. My immersion has involved a series of repetitive walks and close microscope study. When I’m in New Hampshire on Lake Wentworth, I start my work by walking in concentric circles in the water, around my floating research station, with four foot radiating intervals, studying the water and what I can see in it, until I reach the edge of the marsh on three sides. Afterwards I draw, write and sometimes go back into the water to collect specific things for closer examination under the microscope. My research stations allow for an immersive sensory experience in earth’s household, that has boundaries or limits, that enforce a centering or a spot from which to locate oneself, study, live inside of. I have tried to create similar constraints of radiating walks in NY so that I can duplicate the sense of immersion that my research station in New Hampshire provides. Most of the smaller drawings exhibited here are done from study under the microscope of specimens found in both New Hampshire and New York City. I find that no matter how often I study something under the microscope, repeat the same movements, occupy the same space, I’m left with a sense of how little I understand my world. But it is not a leaving of defeat, it is one that is filled with awe and curiosity, that makes me want to keep going, that makes me want to keep being present. In this state, the world outside of oneself becomes extremely acute and one gradually becomes aware of the vast networks of sounds and movement, of patterns all around him.