Meet the Others: Emily Maddigan
The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.
Emily Maddigan is a California-based sculptural artist who is heavily influenced by her travels to Mexico and Africa, where she learned how other cultures reuse and re-purpose materials. In her practice, she uses discarded materials – sequins, zippers, chains, lace, etc. – to repurpose damaged taxidermy.
Her largest series, Sequin Safari, was inspired by finding a taxidermy Impala at an estate sale. “Its horns were cracked, most of its fur was gone, so I took it out of the trash and hung it up in my house. I looked at that sad face every day, until one night I took it to the studio and began repairing it. I took the hide off, washed the fur, glued the horns together, and created a new ‘coat’ for it to wear.”
Q&A with the Artist
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
I was born in Metro Detroit, Michigan. I studied at Michigan State University, which included several study abroad programs in Mexico and various countries in Africa. I completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at California State University Long Beach in 2005. I have shown my work in many states including California, Oregon, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas and New York. I completed a residency at the Armory Center for the Arts and currently work and live in Long Beach, California.
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
Reverence, dichotomies, nature, identity, and consumerism to name a few. Most of the work is a symbolic love story, other times it is just playing with abandoned materials bringing a character to life.
How did you first get interested in your medium and what draws you to it specifically?
I’m drawn to the vast cultural practices, teachings, and belief systems that incorporate animals. Using symbols and animals linked to cultures outside of my own allows a broader dialogue within the work. The physical beginning started with an animal mount that was tossed in the trash – broken horns and torn fur. I took it home and repaired it. Eventually I began pinning sequins and beads onto it and then incorporating any material that inspired me. The motorcycle shop down the street gives me the rubber tubes they normally throw out and I use that quite regularly.
To look at a material and discover multiple approaches of working with it is a delightful place. It’s the same practice I see in the world, to see the good in people, for me it is the same as seeing discarded materials as opportunities to reimagine.
How has your style and practice changed over the years?
In the beginning, the treatment towards the work was primarily beads and sequins and now it incorporates additional materials. The new armor or surfaces for the animals incorporate richer textures and specific materials that tap in to nostalgia. Symbols are also incorporated into the newer work. In the larger pieces such as, Letting Go, there are specific symbols on each arm, a blue bird in the hand, snakes around the legs; and all of these put together generate new messages.
Can you walk us through your process? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it’s finished?
I embrace multiple projects and various materials all at once, so tracking actual time is a challenge. Each material or sequin is meticulously pinned one by one to the form. My studio practice involves re-appropriating, embellishing and becoming absorbed by both the minute details, and overall tone of her work. I’m not overly concerned or intimidated by the size or duration of any project; I focus more on how to surprise the viewer with each new turn.
What series or project are you working on next?
Currently I am creating work that moves. I started this past year working on a few and now have moved towards several moving components.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
To be completely transparent I haven’t been given any great advice as an artist! I have met amazing artists who create wonderful work, and that is inspiring in itself.
Shop artwork by Emily and other trailblazing artists at The Other Art Fair’s Online Studios.
Introducing The Other Art Fair Online Studios, a new online platform offering art lovers around the world access to over 800 Fair artists. The Online Studios will keep our community feeling inspired, engaged, and continue to spread joy through art.