LookHERE: The Space in the Middle - Emmy Bright

by Ashley Hawkins | March 1, 2018


Emmy Bright spent two weeks* printmaking at Studio Two Three in the winter of 2017, brightening (pardon the pun) the studio with her presence and constant, joyful production for those short 14 days. Watching Emmy work in the studio was cathartic and inspiring. 

As an artist myself, I gravitate to those who have their system for production down but still allow for and embrace the happy (and not so happy) accidents of chance. Emmy works quickly and decisively, using Venn diagrams and charming/disarming misshapen blobs as stand-ins for figures/psyches/maybe your relationship with your mom.  

I’ve seldom had the pleasure of working with an artist so immersed in her craft and so capable of speaking to joy, fear and the space in the middle. Emmy’s current exhibition on the Quirk Hotel mezzanine is full of work that on first glance brings joy, then some existential angst, then some more joy and then maybe some audible laughter. Her blobs, negative space and sparse text do the talking, and yet it’s not quite talking - it’s questioning. It’s all about what isn’t certain, that overlapping space in the middle of the Venn diagram, the space between blobs where they join and become one or a worse version of two. What is left when something shifts and trajectories no longer align, when disparate paths or identities intersect? 

In viewing the work, we are fuller and emptier and laughing. You aren’t sure what these blobs and diagrams are saying, so you talk for them and in that find something about yourself: your doubts, insecurities, emptiness, desire for something more or something else come into question. In Tragedies of Desire (Directional) two Venn circles both titled “potential for failure” intersect in a central section entitled “?”.


Yep. We’ve all been there. 

In Emmy’s work, a shift is always imminent. The blobs are moving and changing, as are we. Gender and love are shown in pinks and blues and their overlap. How much of me is in you? What happens if your blob slides away from mine? What’s left of me then? Is there an us? In The Thing and Its Absence that white gap between a magenta shape and a black shape might just be your missed potential. Or the door to the next beautiful phase. Or just a restful negative space in a brightly colored piece (if you want to go that route). 

Despite the gaggle of artists--myself included--who attempted to convince/force Emmy to move to Richmond during her time working here, Emmy has elected to remain in Detroit (with an excellent new post at Cranbrook). So her show at Quirk Gallery  through March 4 (hurry!) and upcoming workshop March 10 at Studio Two Three (where she teaches you some of the magic of making, printing, and the joy of not knowing) are what we Richmonders get of Emmy Bright for now. I’ll take it, and you should too. 


*Emmy Bright explored large format screen printing at Studio Two Three while staying at the Quirk+VisArts Artist Residency program in November 2017. Her work will be featured in a forthcoming group exhibition, curated by Lauren Ross, at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond in fall 2018.


Executive Director of Studio Two Three (and huge Emmy Bright fan)