Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Peacock.
Emily, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born in and raised in Port Arthur, TX. I was a pretty bad teenager and I had never taken an art class when I went to college, I am not sure I even knew what art was back then. I went to Sam Houston State University for Criminal Justice, I changed to Forensic Chemistry after my freshman year. During my sophomore year, I decided to take a photography class. It was the hardest class I had ever taken. I was always good a math and science. Despite my high school heavy drug habit, I graduated with honors. Art was different, it wasn’t about memorizing vocabulary or formulas and it was hard for me. I so desperately wanted to impress my professor.
I decided to take another class and keep working at it, then it just became my major. I actually have a Bachelor’s of Science in photography and journalism. I spent most of the undergrad in the darkroom and looking at the black and white photography greats. Arbus, Woodman, Gowin, Meatyard, and Mann were huge influences on me. (like so many) I wasn’t an art major but I spent most of my time in the art department. After undergrad, I took two years off, got married (later divorced), I set up a darkroom in my house and shot pretty often. Then, I moved to Houston to go to graduate school at the University of Houston for my MFA. Since I didn’t have an art degree I felt a little behind that first year and almost dropped out. I stuck with it and taught myself how to print in the color darkroom. I began to focus on my family in graduate school. I was such a piece of shit when I was a teenager and I felt like I had finally matured and realized that I had been missing my family and wanted to get to know them as an adult. They were very supportive and that was the beginning of decade collaborations. Like most families, mine is crazy and full of drama but also lots of love. My family is always ready to help each other out. Especially my mother, she uses to be my assistant and help me with my projects and be in my work as well. I was also still shooting the only film my entire graduate career (2008-2011). I was stubborn about switching to digital.
Right After graduate school, I had my first solo at Lawndale Art Center a few months out and that really kept me working. It was a big collaborative project that involved most of my family. I also got a studio at Box 13 during that time. It was important to keep a studio practice after graduate school. I don’t think I even realized how important it was at the time. Family continued to be a huge theme in the work and I was still looking and working with photography history. In the years following graduate school, I developed two ways of working: family – outside of the studio at their domestic spaces and alone in the studio photographing objects. I think it came out of not always having to time to go out and photograph.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
For nearly a decade, I have collaborated with my family to create videos and photographs which examine and celebrate this bond. Family history and relationships, domesticity, and personal loss and tragedy are the foundation of my work. In the last four years I have experienced divorce, the untimely passing of my mother, getting remarried, and now the birth of my only child. The death of my mother has shaped my work, and life, more than any other experience I’ve had. Recently, becoming a mother myself has only intensified the magnitude of her absence.
Navigating these experiences is often strangely humorous.
Carol Burnett once said: “I got my sense of humor from my mother. I’d tell her my tragedies. She’d make me laugh. She said comedy is tragedy plus time.”
The human condition and absurdity are both integral to the images I make. I enjoy the idea of making someone laugh but also cringe within the same image.
The vernacular aspects of life, domestic surroundings, collections, and middle-class minutiae are all of interest to me. An ordinary object can hold a lot of meaning for one person but not the next, and the same is true of a photograph. How does one take an ordinary object and give it meaning? I like thinking about this phenomenon, which has become a guiding principle of my creative output.
Being vulnerable is very important to me, not only in my art but in my life. I like connecting with people and allowing myself to be vulnerable allows others around to be as well. I want genuine and authentic interactions and connections. All humans experience loss and pain, and I enjoy connecting with people through my art, knowing they may relate to it on a personal level because of this commonality.
I am a wife, friend, daughter, sister, and mother so those things come out in the images. I hope I represent how complex each of those roles is.
Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
Being an artist is hard. I don’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t just fucking love it. But Houston does offer a lot of opportunities for an artist. Whether it is shown, a residency or a studio space, Houston has a little bit for everyone. I think Houston has a great alternative art scene.
Artist-run spaces are so important. Maybe the most important. There is something about working with other artists that are unique. You have freedom. Freedom to express and experiment. It isn’t about making work to sale. It is about making honest work. Work that you want to or have to make and having a place to show it when no one knows who the fuck you are. Artist run spaces are always weird and there is a do it yourself attitude that I love. There is an enthusiastic energy there, they aren’t doing it for any other reason than they love it and want to it. No bullshit.
I will say that as an artist I am always looking for more money to fund my ideas, so more grants would be good.
Artists always need money.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I am working on a new body of work! I have a solo show at Jonathon Hopson Gallery (where I am represented) in the Spring of 2019 and I have my first museum solo show at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Fall of 2019 to 2020. Right now, I am beginning a series of safety portraits inspired by my experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety.
Jonathan Hopson Gallery
904 Marshall St. Houston, TX 77006