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An interview with: Emma Steinkraus

Introducing the surreal dreamy artworks of American painter: @emmasteinkraus

Emma Steinkraus makes...

Read on below for our full interview...

How has your environment sculpted your creative outlook? 

I’m from the Arkansas Ozarks. My parents are both knowledgeable naturalists (my dad is an entomologist), so I spent a lot of time outside paying attention to plants and animals, which definitely shows up in my work.

Strawberry Moon (2022)

When did you first fall in love with art? 

I started drawing as a kid and never stopped. In some ways, I’ve been making the same kinds of images forever. Even as a four-year-old, I drew colorful, detailed pictures of women and animals. At the same time, I feel like a perpetual beginner. I hope my artistic voice will grow bolder and clearer over time.

What does Spirituality mean to you?

I think if I have a spiritual gift it’s that I have an easy time feeling alive to the world. I feel a lot of joy, especially through observation. I just love looking at things! Simone Weil’s quote that “absolutely unmixed attention is prayer" feels true to me.

Could you tell us about your love of mythology?

Mythology often dissolves the borders between humans and non-humans, creating hybrid creatures, like sphinxes and minotaurs. The oldest known work of figurative art is a hybrid, the Lion-man of Hohlenstein-Stadel, made 35-41,000 years ago. I think these images have resonated for millennia because we need ways to understand ourselves as animals and as irrevocably connected to other species, maybe we especially need that during this moment of widespread biodiversity loss.

What is it about the 'beyond-human world' that sparks your fascination? 

My only access to the world is through my senses and mind, and my senses and mind are so trippy! Perception feels very surreal to me. Sometimes I’ll just stare at the greenness of the grass and feel amazed. Mystical imagery speaks to that intensity, to the mystery and wildness of our inner lives and imaginations as they intersect with what is outside ourselves.

What particular periods of art have had a strong impact on you? 

I approach painting like a DJ; I’m constantly looking at other images and remixing them. Each series has a unique world of references. For my show at 1969 Gallery last summer, I was especially influenced by Italian Renaissance and Symbolist painting. Right now I’m looking at a lot of Japanese paintings, especially Itō Jakuchū’s “Colorful Realm of Living Beings,” and Ancient Greek and Persian mythological sculpture, as well as the Art Deco sculptors they inspired, like Paul Manship and Winifred Turner. 

What lights the flame of passion inside of you?

I just really love art. I love connecting with and riffing on the images and stories other people have made. Getting to be a part of this dialogue of making that goes back thousands of years fills me with gratitude.

Do you have any particular superstitions when it comes to your creative process? 

I keep a little collection of things artist friends have given me at residencies, like some pebbles @skyeebaptiste collected at the Vermont Studio Center and a box of mosses my friend @katie.l.booth collected at the Blue Mountain Center. They’re my studio good luck charms! 


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