We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Roth and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Emily, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risks are the opportunities that come up which make life more interesting and exciting. Whether big or small, taking a risk pushes my limits and allows for a new path in the road, one that I may not have seen or thought of before. Sure, there is always a bit of uneasiness when a risk arises and creates a fork in that road, but there is a factor of trust in myself that allows for me to pursue this unknown territory. If I didn’t trust myself and my drive, I would be constricting my growth as a person and as an artist. Taking risks has allowed me to chase a passion and pursue it as a career.

Risks are something I have always openly embraced, even when I was young. I enjoy the thrills of life and most of the time that correlates with risk. I come from a small town in Missouri where there wasn’t much to do and not exactly home to a wide variety of mindsets and career paths. I am very fortunate though to have a family that encourages me to follow my passions and make the most out of life. I was always seeking new adventures and excitements as a kid, and I loved to paint ever since I can remember- I wanted to be an artist from the start. As I grew up and became more aware of financial demands and the expenses of being an artist, I planned to pursue a career as a medical doctor, following a majority of my peers at the time. In my town the main career choices that most people pursued were in the medical field. But before I went to college I reached a point where I felt that I would have to put my interests and passions on hold in order to “be successful” in the world today, meaning that I would practice my art as a side hobby rather than a career. I felt so limited and restricted. At that moment I just decided to jump in with both feet and be an artist. I needed to give myself 100% to my art and my passion. I would make it work somehow even though I actually had no structured plans in mind when I made that decision. I would say this was the biggest turning point in my life up to this point.

I understand and accept that taking risks is essential to the life I want to pursue. An artistic career is one that many people are wary of, as it is not considered a mainstream or stable profession. There is no defined step-by-step process to becoming an artist, everyone has a different path and plan that is unique to them. It can certainly be daunting considering the amount of risks one must take as an artist, particularly when considering the unpredictability of the past few years. However, the reward for taking those risks is what continues to fuel the drive to keep moving forward. I consider it part of my artistic practice to take risks and try new things, as you never know what you’ll take away from that experience. For me as an artist a new opportunity which comes with risk in the studio may be a new and unexplored concept for a piece of art, or simply just beginning a new painting and having to face the blank white canvas. Other opportunities involving risk as an artist may be a commission from a new client, a new art related day job, or even just a small side gig for a little extra cash. All of these have the potential to make an impact on my character, my art, and my career. By choosing to take on these opportunities, I am allowing myself to grow and understand who I am as an artist and person, and discover new passions. Taking risks has played and will continue to play a tremendous role in my life and career as an artist.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My passion is creating, whether it be a painting, sculpture, or a birthday card for a loved one, I truly enjoy the art of making. The compulsion to create is a uniquely human trait, thus when I make work I feel connected to my humanity. Art can be traced back through history all the way to the cave paintings in Lascaux and beyond. It has documented our progression as a species and has provided artifacts to better understand the evolution of culture. This woven relationship between art objects and our space in time encourages me to think about our everyday actions and routines, as these moments have been portrayed in art in many different forms throughout history. The human experience is one that is exciting, but also defined by habitual behaviors, repetition and tedium. Whether it is consciously recognized or not, everyone performs daily rituals and tasks that help us progress through our days. This may be something as mundane as cleaning dishes after a meal, or waking early to exercise before starting one’s day. My interest lies in exploring the everyday actions that we collectively spend most of our life performing yet assign little existential value or meaning or even find unpleasant. These actions or tasks are often required in order to be considered a functional member of society or to facilitate other tasks in of themselves, necessary but rarely the focus of high art.

My main studio practice is painting, it was the first art form I was introduced to and I fell in love with it. However, as I grew up and studied painting at college I was exposed to a variety of media and have a great appreciation for all art forms. I continue to paint and draw in my studio, and I also weave and create mixed media works that I call my woven paintings. These are a combination of collaged thrifted fabric pieces and oil paintings that I have manipulated and made into a weaving. I’m always looking for new ideas and investigating different materials, and for me the process of making and exploring is what I’m most excited about.

My journey as a working artist has not been a straightforward direction. There are so many different options that are available to pursue when beginning a career as a creative. The main point is to be sure that you are taking the necessary steps to get you to where you want to be, even if you need to pursue several different paths to make it happen. Being an artist is a lifetime pursuit and there is always more to discover and grow from throughout all of one’s life. I am an emerging artist, at what I would consider the beginning stages of my career. I’ve been painting since I was a little kid and have been encouraged to continue creating and exploring, and I still am doing so today. Naturally, there have always been some bumps in the road. A career as an artist is not one that is universally recognized as a worthwhile career. Sadly, although we live surrounded by art and use art to bring meaning to our lives, modern expectations have cast doubts on artistic careers and as a result have discouraged many young artists. I’m sure artists experience this almost everywhere in the world, but the point is to not be dismayed, and to continue working towards what you want. It’s vital to maintain perspective, a degree of self trust and a healthy work ethic.

I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2020, which was a crazy year to leave school because of the pandemic. I think finding my footing as an artist during this time was one of the most difficult obstacles I’ve had to overcome, both emotionally and practically. This experience has helped me grow as a person and as a creative, and I still feel that I am in the process of growing. Despite the pandemic still in full motion, I moved to Brooklyn, New York after graduation as I wanted to be in a location that had a thriving scene and opportunities for emerging artists to participate in the art world – although with COVID things have only just begun to pick back up in summer this year with some excellent exhibitions and shows. Networking has been more difficult than usual also due to the pandemic. The art world was at a full stop as everything else was in 2020, but now that it is returning it is also changing and even more uncertain than normal. However even through the pandemic, there is still an artistic presence to be felt and seen in New York City that is hard to find elsewhere in the United States. Now that things have returned to how it was pre-COVID (somewhat), I am finding even more opportunities than I would ever have thought of before. I believe that the best thing to do as a creative is to take any opportunity in which you gain experience in and is related to the career you desire. There is always an opportunity to learn and discover new skills, knowledge, and wisdom when one takes the risk of trying something new. As a young artist I find that yes, it is comforting and great when you know what you want to pursue with your art, but also be a sponge. Learn and take in as much as you can while you are still figuring things out – it is so beneficial to discovering who you are as a person and as an artist. A career as an artist is very fluid in my perspective. There are many different skills that can translate into different avenues that may not be what was imagined exactly from the start. But it keeps life interesting and one’s mind fresh and active.

I continue to work in my own studio, I do personal work, commissioned pieces, and have taken on a few painting side gig projects for a little extra cash. At the moment I am working as a professional artist’s painting assistant, working on a large series of works for an upcoming show as well as working a day job as a manager and custom framer at Blick Art Supplies. While these jobs may mean that I have less time to focus on personal artwork, they are necessary stepping stones for me to achieve what I want in my career. I am considering several options for next steps to progress towards my long term goal as a studio artist. I remain flexible with the direction I take as there is a whole lifetime of exploration as an artist to influence me!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a close friend was visiting me here in Brooklyn for a bit, I would want to first take them to my favorite cafe in town with the best coffee: Roots Cafe, which is conveniently located just a couple blocks from my apartment. There is a cozy backyard patio which is my favorite spot. The cafe shows local art on their walls inside and on Friday evenings there is live music out front.

A shared hobby of my best friend and I is to go thrifting. I live in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, near Gowanus, and there are an abundance of vintage and second hand stores with items from all eras. The most exciting part is scoring unforeseen finds like great clothes/household items, books, and even material to utilize in my artwork. From the cafe we could walk to downtown Brooklyn and go thrifting down 5th Avenue along the whole way.

When visiting a new place, we also have a shared interest in seeing the great museums and galleries this city has to offer. One of the best parts about New York City for me is the amount of museums and culture to be found here. Having access to world famous collections of art and galleries showing the best new contemporary work is such an amazing opportunity. The friend I have previously mentioned is also a visual artist and we both enjoy immersing ourselves in art for a full day. We definitely would not be able to see every museum in a week with all of the options in NYC, however we would make a list of the ones not to miss. Gallery hopping in Manhattan has become a favorite of mine since moving here. Grabbing a slice of pizza while out and about is my go to – and one cannot visit NYC without getting a dollar slice!

Another favorite experience of New York is the food. There is so much good food here – some of the best food in the world. I love trying new authentic foods from around the world. With so many options of different types of food and restaurants to pick from sometimes it is honestly very hard to decide, but easier when you have a second opinion! I would take my friend to several great restaurants and depending on what they were craving, we could find something! My favorite ramen place is called Ramen Ishida, it’s in the lower east side. In Brooklyn, I would say one of the hidden gems is a Greek restaurant called Athena. It is family owned, and the recipes are from the current owner’s grandmother and who is still in Greece.

There are many sights to see in New York as well. I love of the outdoors so I frequently visit parks around the city. I am closest to Prospect Park, my favorite in the city. Central Park is also a must for this visit. Another beautiful spot is Roosevelt Island state park, situated between Manhattan and Queens. My favorite time of the year to visit here is fall when the trees have golden leaves. I live fairly close to the Greenwood Cemetery, which is not only historically interesting, but it arguably has one of the best views on the hill overlooking Brooklyn and Manhattan. There are so many attractions in New York City that one will never run out of options!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would not be where I am today if it were not for the love and support of my family and friends, especially my parents. They encouraged me from the very beginning to follow my passions, to live life to its fullest and enjoy the ride along the way. I also want to give a shoutout to my partner, James who is also a visual artist, for caring, understanding, and encouraging me to be the best person and artist I can be everyday.

Website: www.emilyrothart.com

Instagram: @_emilyrothartwork

Image Credits
Reece Woolsey; All photographs of the artwork (3) are courtesy of the artist, Emily Roth

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