Emma, to ease into these questions more organically, what's been on your mind lately?
Books are everything to me right now. reading has always been important in my life, when I was very small I was attached to books like they were safety blankets. I drifted away from that in my early adolescence but my life did an abrupt 180 when I moved to New York and I am now again a bibliophile. I think a lot about eating books. I consume them, I write all over them, reading is a very intense thing for me. recently I have been reading a lot of semiology and poetry, I started a tiny-letter where I send out collections of hungry words I write to whoever signs up to receive them... I am working a 9 to 5 desk job this summer which makes some things easier but also makes me feel like a pet rat in a cardboard box... i'm restless. it might be good for my "art." idk
I have found normative work like that very soothing for the mind, especially if you’re someone who's always restless in the head. Who has been one of the most influential writers for you and why? Give me some recommendations :)
Yeah, and i have lovely, supportive coworkers who always bring bagels for the office so i feel very lucky :) right now Anne Carson is the queen of my heart and soul, her book/poem/miracle The Beauty Of The Husband and her translations of sappho’s fragments have made me want to live differently--to learn ancient greek, to run away, to look at rocks and bugs more compassionately. I was at one of my favorite bookstores and a guardian angel in the form of a tall dark and handsome man overheard me talking about her book Decreation (which contains writing about another one of my favorite authors and my imaginary fairy godmother Simone Weil) to one of my friends, deciding i couldn’t afford to get it. the Angel bought it without me knowing, came over and handed it to me, and disappeared with a smile. books keep finding me. I’d also recommend A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes and anything by Rilke.
You take a lot of selfies. Do you know the specific reason? (This is meant as interested and genuine as possible. I take pictures of myself too, and ask myself what I want by exposing them publicly. And of course, it totally depends on the context of the picture. Desire always seems to be part of it, whether wanting to be desired because we find ourselves beautiful, or wanting to be desired because we can be ugly too.)
I like the way you said that, 'wanting to be desired because we can be ugly too.' on occasion I definitely revel in my grotesqueness and like to show people the weird/scary/ugly things my body can do because it's just fascinating that humans have these corporeal forms that are kind of sad and wonky sometimes and my body just happens to be the most accessible example of this because it's always hanging around me. lol. but to be honest , even though this sounds kind of fake, 95% of the time, selfies are a very self-reflective exercise for me and have less to do with desire than with experimentation. I have dealt with mental illness my entire life and have experienced phenomena such as dissociation and derealization frequently, and I used to study (and may someday come back to) biology, neuroscience, and psychology. sometimes, I feel like my life is a case study i'm performing and selfies are both a frequent check-in (they provide an archive of my physical and emotional state in different times and environments) and a reckoning: the way I look and the way my body interacts with the world are mysterious, sometimes disturbing, sometimes exciting, and selfies allow me to record myself as I move through the world. maybe trying to come to terms with existence in general. this is actually how I think when I take selfies. i'm really fun at parties.
You concern yourself a lot with body image. Can you tell me how you got interested in exploring everything that involves the female body?
I first want to say that i'm not just interested in 'the female body' as I don't think there is a way to define what a 'female body' is, let alone what a 'female' is. I tend to feature people who would be perceived by the general public as femme in my art because that's an experience I understand on a personal level and tends to be one that comes with a lot of violence and neuroses. I was a big free the nipple advocate years ago because it's so fucking dumb that people with breasts can't be topless in many spaces where people who look like "men" can, but then I stopped being as overtly political about it because the free the nipple movement is largely associated with white feminism and I have had bigger components of feminism on my mind lately.
I still go topless where it's legal in public though ;) though breasts and curvy forms are not exclusively present on femmes, they tend to be associated with femininity and I happen to love drawing them. shadows of rolls on the stomach are so fun. I love drawing boobs. also, I have a lot of naked pics of myself on hand at all times so I use myself as a cheap and cooperative figure model, lol. this leads to a large fixation on characteristics I happen to have that are usually interpreted as "female." as I mentioned above, mental illness + disordered eating + studying bio + a general confusion as to the nature of physical embodiment has led to a lot of thinking about bodies in general.
Image courtesy of Emma Seely-Katz
interview LARA KONRAD
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