Interview: Emerald Rose Whipple

@emeraldrosewhipple

MEET EMERALD ROSE WHIPPLE, THE VIRTUOSO NEW-YORK BASED PAINTER WHOSE WORK IS LIKE A ‘STREET-STYLE BLOG BY MONET‘.

Emerald Rose Whipple is a Californian artist based in New York, whose paintings are striking and unique, ranging from intimate portraits to otherworldly saturated landscapes;  a fresh view on youth culture, produced in a photorealistic & impressionist style. Imagine street style photos painted by Monet. I met Emerald in a lovely hippie-vibe vegan cafe in Paris called Wild & The Moon, which she highly recommended. We spent a few hours together, drinking juice, hanging around sunny Paris, discovering nice stores like The Broken Arm & OFR. She told me about her work, inspirations, background and how fashion industry brought her to the art world. Read our interview to learn more about this extraordinary artist!

How and when did you first realise you wanted to be an artist/ painter?
Art is something I have practiced for as long as I can recall. I am an only child and was raised to be very independent. Art & drawing were always my go to activities if I could not be outside in Nature. My Parents were creatives, my father is a goldsmith and my mother practiced jewelry until the end of her life, several years ago. Art was an activity I would do with my mom. She recognized my creative interest and was extremely supportive of it! She would always get me books on drawing, sculpture and other forms of creation. I am self taught but I credit her to the creative introduction and pursuit of drawing & painting.
Sculpture and the molding of form is a skill I learned from my father and something that has been absent in my creative process recently. The act of transformation, bringing something out of ‘nothing’ in the physical sense is so powerful, there’s this affirming presence that comes through. It is something i have been wanting to incorporate in my practice for years now. I was taught ‘lost wax casting’ primarily used for jewelry in which 3D wax molds are carved by hand and then cast in metal. I want to explore carving marble, I love applying these historic techniques to a modern eye, similarly to my paintings. 

I want to incorporate a candid feeling in my work. Life is full of these unfolding moments that are often deemed ordinary but they really make up the extent of our existence.

Your art is indeed a fusion of modernity & history, portraying contemporary people and sets through traditional technique of 19th century brushwork like impressionism. A “Street blog by Monet”, is the perfect description i read online about your work. Did the concept come to you naturally? How exactly did it develop?
I want to capture my generation in paint, as it feels more substantial then photography and digital media which is becoming more and more ‘disposable’ (for lack of a better word) with social media and our attention spans. The paintings depict images one might find on social media through the translation of paint. This makes them feel more archival and grounded in time, at least for me. When the article in i-D (written by Sarah Moroz) came out I was transitioning out of fashion with a stronger focus on fine art. The evolution happened organically. I love the narratives of fashion photography & the eye of certain photographers such as Ryan McGinley, Juergen Teller & Wolfgang Tillmans.
A lot of fashion and photography in general can come off very staged and what continues to inspire me is the relatability to a mundane moment. I want to incorporate a candid feeling in my work. Life is full of these unfolding moments that are often deemed ordinary but they really make up the extent of our existence. I wish to communicate something real, or at least through my view of life. Having worked in fashion, a lot of my subjects are friends which I met working in the industry. The street style element came through as a reference to fashion and personal style of the subjects. They depict the joy of life and the details which make up existence, waiting to cross the street, laughing with friends, playing with a dog, those meaningful memories I imagine we cherish just before death. I love Monet! I don’t know if you have seen Clueless, the film by Amy Heckerling but I feel like that person who can reference almost anything in my life back to it. That scene where Tai asks Cher if Amber is pretty:

Cher: “She’s a full-on Monet” (referring to Amber).
Tai: “What’s a Monet?”
Cher: “It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big ol’ mess.”

Obviously I don’t agree with the ‘mess factor’ I love the freedom of gesture in impressionist paintings. The brushwork is so varied, I love looking at Monet & Degas. My parents had several art books I would look through and I always found my way back to the impressionists and old masters, both of which heavily influence my work.
Being a self taught artist one could conclude that I found my voice by combining techniques and styles of artists who inspire me. Perhaps it’s a product of conditioning, society’s influence of self doubt and often a need to conform to fit in. I think it stems from finding ones reflection in something that already exists though, in a way it almost affirms your voice/identity and allows you the space to be understood. I remember feeling very out of place in my youth, with my thoughts and ideas until I found ancient philosophy, the teachings of peace and the idea of the soul and the search for divine truth. I wouldn’t say I mimic these beliefs but rather they helped ground that which lay awake inside of me. My process in art and style is similar, at least in my view of myself.

I love Clueless! 😉 So at one point you turned to fashion design. Did it inspire your work as a painter?
I was accepted to Pratt on a painting scholarship, per my parents concern to secure a job out of college I switched my major to Fashion Design. I credit fashion for my eye and my business sense. I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked in the industry for almost a decade as it taught me important skills such as time management, client relations, continuity, brand development and finance.

You are now based in NYC, but you were born in California and you lived in Hawaii for a while. Nature is strongly present in your work: many vast landscapes, foaming waves, golden sunsets, full of colors and energy. What is the relationship between human identity and nature in your work?
Nature is incredibly sacred to me. Whenever I feel out of balance I go to a park or to the water and get in touch with the fluidity and flow of the natural cycles present within nature. Earth is the habitat in which we occupy space, similarly the landscape and sunset paintings provide the setting in which the portrait paintings exist. On a deeper level the landscapes allude to the interconnectedness of being, semi monistic in thought. In my Phædo series there are several diptychs which symbolize the transmigration of the soul, this idea that the spirit of the portrait is also found in nature. This is an underlying thread in my work and how I group nature with portraits.

The pointillism acts as a symbol of the illusion of separateness yet how everything is divinely connected. My work from far away creates a single image, yet up close the micro brushstrokes create an abstraction. It is also a reminder for myself that in many ways we are all part of this divine nature.

You suggest lots of references and undertones through your art, which question both the identity of the subject and the viewer. Is that a conscious intention?
In general, I want my work to hold space for people to exist freely, whole, without judgement in themselves. Different people connect to different paintings, for some being seen by a portrait painting allows this and for others a landscape or a sunset provides an exhale. The Pointillism acts as a symbol of the illusion of separateness yet how everything is divinely connected. My work from far away creates a single image, yet up close the micro brushstrokes create an abstraction. It is also a reminder for myself that in many ways we are all part of this divine nature.

Your paintings capture the essence of your subjects; there are people making out, laughing, partying…It seems very real and in the moment. How do you manage to capture such candid moments? And then how do you decide which snap to use for a painting?
I have a very large image archive. There are over 20k photos on my phone and I have several photo albums. Selection is centered around my artist statement or at least the ideas I wish to communicate, and how the visual narrative supports that which I wish to say. I end up narrowing images down from a folder from 300-500, to about 50. Then I curate them in a way that makes sense visually, taking note of line and color but also how commanding the image itself might be, and how it will translate in paint. 

Technically, how long does it take for you to produce a piece?
I work on several at a time but comfortably 3-5 months. I’m very good under pressure so if I have a deadline I will work for 12-16 hours a day instead of 6-8. It depends on the project and the timeline. Coming from fashion I am used to a fast paced calendar but I prefer to move slowly. West coast vibes! 

You are using different techniques, sometimes Impressionism or Pointillism…Do you feel like your style is evolving a lot?
My painting style is a mirror of where I am in consciousness. It’s constantly shifting but it maintains the elements of Pointillism, Impressionism and a bit of the photorealistic nature of the old masters.

As artists we create portals, With my paintings I am creating my picture of the world. I am making something I would want to exist with in hopes that people see the light in it, the lightness of being. 

Who/what is your biggest inspiration? 
It changes, I think people in general who strive for that divine truth, wisdom and peace. When I was very young Gandhi was one of my heroes. I’m inspired by philosophy, I love Ancient Greek wisdom. I have been reading a lot of Ram Dass and Thich Nhat Hanh as of late, especially since their beliefs parallel with the new painting series I am working on.
Visually I am very inspired by contemporary photography, my paintings are drawn from photos I take. I love the cross between fashion and fine art photography, anything romantic and dreamlike in narrative. I look at photography in terms of what I would collect and what I would want to exist with. As artists we create portals, With my paintings I am creating my picture of the world. I am making something I would want to exist with in hopes that people see the light in it, the lightness of being. 

Equality and balance are important, I think when both sexes can find the balance of masculinity and femininity within themselves this will create a balance in the outer world. Men supporting women in their pursuits but also women supporting men, honoring the balance of divine masculine and divine feminine.

As a woman in the art business, have you ever faced obstacles or discrimination?
I know women in all fields who have experienced obstacles of sexism & discrimination. It is disheartening and I wish we could see each other as individuals deserving of love and acceptance. We are all unique and have something to give to the world. I wish we could support each other and allow each other to grow. Equality and balance are important, I think when both sexes can find the balance of masculinity and femininity within themselves this will create a balance in the outer world. Men supporting women in their pursuits but also women supporting men, honoring the balance of divine masculine and divine feminine. I am naturally peaceful and have always done my best to strive for balance and unity. We are all brothers and sisters in this global family. Like ripples in the ocean. That being said, I have been incredibly fortunate not to have experienced sexism in the art business. The obstacles I have encountered are more in line with my age and background in fashion rather than fine art. I am incredibly grateful to have received tremendous support from people (men and women) who understand and relate to my work and have wanted to create a platform for it to be exhibited and shared. 

There is a popular hashtag #GirlsSupportGirls, what do you think of that campaign and the fight for equality?
#GirlsSupportGirls is a beautiful campaign. We all deserve love and acceptance and to feel seen and supported by our fellow humans. I believe women should support each other but also that men and women should support each other from this place of love.
We should recognize that on the deepest level we are all human, all part of this global family in coexistence. I am working to remove this idea of criticism & comparison, as we are all different, and have something unique to offer the world. I believe when we can remove this fear, that we are all in competition with one another we can restore peace and balance to ourselves and to how we engage with the world around us, to support one another in growth and expansion.

What’s next for you Emerald ?
‘Moving Image of Eternity’. This is the title of my next painting series which touches on the paradox of time. How it is constantly unfolding in the here and now, while the past and the future are simply extensions of the mind. The visual narrative is a balance of dreamlike sunsets and youth culture, captured in different locations around the world, mostly in the golden hour. The key themes and symbols are Time, Memory, Movement & Light.

Is there a question I should have asked you?
Maybe if I’m religious… I am not, more of a philosopher though I like to study religion to get in touch with what people believe. Perhaps also something about the mix of identity of the artist with the art, for me they are separate! With art I think it’s important to separate the artist from the work if possible. I do my best to disassociate from my work. I want the focus to be on my art and try to keep a distinction between myself and the work I create. It is something that comes through me, and is less about me as an individual.
The underlying philosophy within the paintings is something I would identify with but it is more knowledge/wisdom I came to through life experience.

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Valeria Martins