Emma Lister is a sculptor, painter, set designer, illustrator, writer, and ceramicist from Oak Park, IL currently living and working in Galesburg, IL. Her sculptural work was awarded the Bethany Bender 1st Prize in Sculpture in the Al Young Juried Art Show at Knox College Spring 2014, 2015, and 2016. Her work, Henrik was awarded the 1st Place Prize at the Figge Museum's annual College Invitational Art Exhibition in Davenport, IA. In May 2015, Emma Lister was accepted into the Chautauqua Institution's School of the Visual Arts Summer Program in Chautauqua, NY. In November, 2016, her sculpture Didactic was selected for the Figge College Invitational Art Exhibition in Davenport, IA. In April 2017, Emma accepted a position at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture's summer residency program in Skowhegan, Maine.
The following quote is from Emma's website and perfectly describes the ambitions and challenges of her work, which we quickly learn to identify, confront, and welcome.
"As an artist, I am interested in the human obsession with the inexplicable and the combination of fear and determination with which we approach these phenomena. There are certain entities and ideas present in the mind that want to Become- that want to be brought into the universe in a way that allows them to occupy a real and concrete space in order communicate with other beings and ideas. I see my role as an artist as someone who assists in building “bodies” for these abstractions to occupy so that we as humans may have a more definite relationship with them- so that we may understand ourselves better by way of occupying the same literal space as the things we think and feel and sense"
Most of Emma's sculptures emulate the dimensions of the human body and stand in equal stature. When one approaches these sculptures, there is a distinct feeling of no longer being alone, no longer being a single body in an open room. When sharing the same space as these pieces, it becomes difficult to remember that they are inanimate objects, that they are lifeless. Due to their organic shape, the almost-dancing contours, and the familiar materials encountered, the sculptures fight against their artificiality. These features are especially displayed in Devotion, Henrik, and Dialectics of Power, where the structures seem to feed into themselves and continue, in the same fashion as a tangle of vines, or a curled-up-on-the-couch lover.
Even when the material reality of the piece is the most pronounced, the most industrial and man-made, there remains the feeling of companionship. Perhaps it's because of how vulnerable the structures are, how exposed and precarious we find them. Works like Qualia, Rapid City 1977, and Final Offering are supported by such thin, breakable limbs that we begin to worry about their survival. Outside of the shelter of the art studio, could they weather the storms? Could they live a life without us? Emma sharply asks these same questions as she moves her most delicate sculpture, Qualia, beside the old-growth forests of the Eastern Seaboard. The photographs of this experiment capture the tension between the work and the world around it, and leave us with our worry.
While we may feel a confidence in their survival, or lack thereof, the sculptures, in their silence and stillness, are marked by a mutable longevity. As evidenced in her work Un- Re-, a collaborative act of dismantling all of her undergraduate sculptures and reforming them together into new forms, Emma Lister demonstrates a willingness to change. Just like our own bodies, the sculptures morph, undergo moments of trauma and strength. But most importantly, they continue being. Just as they were formed from found fragments, discarded objects, and loose debris, so they will return: dismantled and scattered, once-loved.
Present in Emma Lister's work is the fragile durability of our own bodies as well as the now-peaceful condition of our loss and pain. While they may seem coarse, at times almost monstrous, the sculptures demonstrate a delicate optimism. They are conceived through a sincere conversation with their site-specific origins, empowered by their piecemeal construction, identified and absolved by their common lifespan. We are reminded, then, by the silent movement of these sculptures, of our own determination to survive.
To see more of Emma's work, including examples of set design and illustration, please visit her website at www.emmalisterart.com
Images are presented in reverse chronological order.
Qualia Summer 2017
BRANCHES FOUND IN FOREST, RECYCLED FABRICS FROM "SKILLS" THRIFT STORE IN SKOWHEGAN, ME, HEMP STRING, SCRAP LUMBER, OYSTER SHELLS 8'7"x7'0"x3'0"
CenCy (sen-sigh) Summer 2017
BRANCHES FOUND IN FOREST, RECYCLED FABRICS FROM "SKILLS" THRIFT STORE IN SKOWHEGAN, ME, BUTCHERS PAPER, VARIOUS CLAMPS, HEMP STRING, CLIMBING ROPE, OSB BOARD, SCRAP LUMBER 5'x4'x3'
ollaborative Act involving the disassembling and reassembling of sculptures made during the artist's undergrad years into new forms.
Final Offering Spring 2017
2-SLIDE PROJECTOR, OSB BOARD, SCRAP LUMBER FROM GALESBURG DUMPSTER, SPRAY PAINT, TAPE, PAPER MACHE, HOUSE PAINT, STYROFAOM, CARDBOARD, WELDED STEEL FRAME, MOTH WING FROM GALESBURG UNDERPASS, HONEYCOMB FOUND LODGED IN HOLLOW INSIDE OF STEEL FRAME 12'x2'5"x11'
Cuttlefish Promenade Spring 2017 Winner of the Bethany Bender 1st Prize in Sculpture in the Al Young Student Art Show (Spring 2017)
SB BOARD, CARDBOARD, METAL NUTS, BOTS, AND WASHERS, PAPER MACHE, ACRYLIC PAINTS 9'x4'x5'
Rapid City, 1977 Spring 2017
ACQUERED SHELVING LUMBER, SPRAY PAINT, GESSO, HOUSE PAINT, SCRAP LUMBER, METAL NUTS, BOLTS, AND WASHERS, PINK MATTE BOARD, FAUX BLACK LEATHER BOOTS 6'5"×4'3"×4'3"
Dialectics of Power Winter 2016 Selected for the Figge Museum's annual College Invitational Art Exhibition (November 2016-January 2017)
STEEL ROD, POSTER BOARD, STYROFOAM, PAPER MACHE, HOUSE PAINT 5'0"x3'4"x6'6"
226 East Main/ Warrior 2 Spring 2017
LYWOOD, PLEXIGLASS, SPRAY PAINT, GESSO, ACRYLIC PAINT, PLEXIGLASS, PLASTER, STONE, BLACK DRAWING PAPER 3'4"×6'3"×2'2"
Mondrian's Nightmare; Deep Space Explorer Spring 2017
WOOD, INSULATION FOAM, PLASTER, ACRYLICS, BLACK FABRIC, DUCT TAPE, ALUMINUM DUCTING, SILVER CAR WINDSHIELD GUARD 5'2"×4'6"×3'5"
Didactic Spring 2016 Winner of the Bethany Bender 1st Prize in Sculpture in the Al Young Student Art Show (Spring 2016)
STYROFOAM, PLATER, PLYWOOD, CARDBOARD, ACRYLIC PAINT, DESK DRAWER 4'6"x3'6"x7'0"
Devotion Summer 2015
PLASTER ON STYROFOAM 3'6"x5'0"x2'9
ComeBack Spring 2015 Winners of the Bethany Bender 1st Prize in Sculpture in the Al Young Student Art Show (Spring 2015) Knox College (May 8th, 2015)
PLASTER ON STYROFOAM Each sculpture measures about 5'6"x6'5"x4'0"
Henrik Spring 2014 Awarded the 1st Place Prize at the Figge Museum's annual College Invitational Art Exhibition (February 5th, 2015)
CHAIR, CHICKEN WIRE, PAPER MACHE, ACRYLIC PAINT 4'8"x3'6"x4'0"