Emmy Thelander

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A hand waves hello or goodbye. The person receiving this gesture understands that it means one of two things. A hand attached to an arm via a wrist can articulate infinitely, however. The subtleties of its motion—direction, speed, vigor, duration—are overlooked in greeting and departing.

Like a hand waving or a handwritten letter ‘e’, a sign as it exists in the world is subject to variation and change. Owing to an instinctive distrust of static signifiers, I am motivated to discover how painting can represent dynamic processes, such as motion and decision-making. Ideally, an artwork feels as if it has emerged from the living circumstances under which beings and objects exist.

A group of paintings I made on bumpy foam required that I use an airbrush to apply an image. The airbrush is a circulatory system—air pumps in and out of a compressor—while the potholed foam emulates terrain. In a project using a gallery’s physical features to generate images, three paintings mirror the windows directly opposite creating a loop that skims the architecture. Like electrons passing invisibly through space, material conditions provide evidence of motion, though it remains unseen. In a new series, I’ve designated each edge of the frame as one of the activities I strain to make time for in my life—“relaxation”, “friends”, “time alone”, “intellectual stimulation”. These paintings reflect an individual’s choices about how to make a finite resource count. Like the painting’s stretchers, each phrase is a vector point that tethers an activity tasked with being meaningful.

Typically, a painting’s frame acts as a punctuation mark, but is it possible for one to experience painting fluidly and uninterrupted like the body’s movement, which slows and changes direction but doesn’t stop? I’m developing a painting that is so long it will be perceived as continuous. A viewer will be required to traverse the painting rather than absorb it in one visual gulp.


In walking, one’s pace is aligned with her body in an organic, but measured passage of time. I developed a tool which lets a person navigate through the perspective of her knees—a wearer learns to acclimate to their cycling motion. I fantasize about a fully light-perceiving body. There is a flatworm that can regenerate a new head, eyes, and brain if lost, but what’s more amazing is that the headless fragment is itself able to detect light! I hope to create objects that precipitate a haptic impression through the optical nerve.

In what is intended to be a productive crossing of wires, I force signals generated by disparate technologies to make contact: the images from two overlaid projectors playfully touch, or video display guides and holds the line from a colored pencil. These connections seek resolution to the collective anxiety about the status of phenomenological experience in the wake of increasing periods spent with digital devices. I am attempting to create space for the human body within these virtual exchanges—or more precisely, to draw attention to the fact that experience is always, inevitably embodied.



2014 MFA Painting, Yale University, New Haven, CT
2010 BFA Painting, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
2009 Yale/Norfolk Summer School of Art, Norfolk, CT
2006-08 Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI


2016 Eternal Wobble, Los Ojos, Brooklyn, NY (solo)
2015 Gust Character, ITP, Jackson Hole, WY (solo)
2015 They accrue meaning by being in the foreground, Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA (solo)
2014 Rational Exuberance, Los Ojos, Brooklyn, NY
2014 Condensed Matter, Green Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, CT
2014 PAINTINGWALL (Janus at 8:16), Touch Gallery, Cambridge, MA
2012 Players on the Plaza, Terminal Projects, Brooklyn, NY
2012 Pig Slop Studios at Version Fest, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity Community Center, Chicago, IL
2010 Boxed In/Boxed Out, Bushwick BETA Spaces, Brooklyn, NY
2010 Fake It Till You Make It, Des Lee Gallery, St. Louis, MO
2009 This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Community Arts and Media Project, St. Louis, MO


2013 Alice Kimball English Traveling Fellowship, Yale University
2010 Wacks Scholarship, Washington University in St. Louis
2010 Eda and Clarence Cushing Prize in Painting, Washington University in St. Louis
2009 Hazel H. Hutsinger Award in Painting, Washington University in St. Louis
2007 Eliza Gardiner Memorial Scholarship, Rhode Island School of Design


2016 Signal Culture Residency
2014-15 Fountainhead Fellowship, Virginia Commonwealth University
2014 ACRE Residency
2012 Osage Arts Community Residency


2013 Artist Project for Parallelograms.info, January, 2013
2012 “In Conversation with Parallelograms,” site95, Journal Issue No. 11: November, 2012
2012 “Notes from Bushwick: Luhring Augustine, Big Reality, and Regina Rex,” The Art Blog, www.theartblog.org, April 3
2010 “Oohs and Aahs – Maya Hayuk at Cinders Gallery and Justen Ladda at Storefront,” The Art Blog, www.theartblog.org, December 17
2010 “Sharon Butler, Joy Curtis, and Cathy Nan Quinlan ‘On Display’,” Brooklyn Exposed, www.brooklynexposed.com, Aug 16


2014 ‘Intimacy in Art and Curating’, Katie Killary, Bushwick Daily
2012 ‘HungryMan//Christine Kesler and Emmy Thelander’, Aaron Harbour, Curiously Direct


2014-   Fountainhead Fellow: Adjunct in Painting and Printmaking
2015     Virginia Commonwealth University – Richmond, VA

• Basic Drawing (F ‘14)
• Basic Painting (F ‘14 and S ’15) • Intermediate Painting (S ‘15)
• Digital Drawing (Summer ‘15)

2013- Graduate Teaching Assistant
2014 Yale University School of Art – New Haven, CT

• Silkscreen Printing (S ‘14)
• Painting Studio I (F ‘13)