Emilie Stark-Menneg – Artist Spotlight
I met Emilie Stark-Menneg two years ago via instagram. We connected because of mutual friends and a shared appreciate of painting, color and making absurd images. Following several exchanges online we arranged a meeting to do a studio visit. Emilie and her Mom, Maggie – an artist as well – showed up to do a studio visit. At the time, I was living in my art studio and they didn’t seem to bat an eye as I showed them my loft bed and the studio with no space between them. It means a lot to visit someone – these are things people remember – the time it takes to travel to see and meet new friends. Their visit was uplifting and helpful. We hugged and parted ways, continuing to cheer each other on through messages, studio visits and social media.
Two years later – I am still cheering on Emilie as she successfully roars through the art world at a young age. Finishing her final year at RISD for her MFA – she has already had two solo shows in New York City in the last two years. Allouche Gallery in the Meatpacking District hosted her first New York Solo show last year and currently, Emilie has a solo show at Field Projects in Chelsea (SUSPECTS – on view until October 20th).
Fear, gossip, love, behavior and animals – the title of her current solo show – SUSPECTS – alludes to many of these words in obvious and sometimes sneaky ways. Emilie has a propensity for creating images that are bold, comical, hysterical and rich in cultural and art historical references.
Her current paintings are rife with paint tricks, techniques and optics that leave even painters wondering how she made them. What I love about her work – is that they are steeped in signifiers and physical cues that elude to much more than first meets the eye. Much of contemporary painting – because of instagram – can be boiled down into optics and style. Some of this carries weight to me but some seems flighty and based in popular taste shaped by filters and algorithms. We are living in a shared world of images where appropriation is as prevalent as ever but often leaves some paintings lacking substance and endurance. Here, with Stark-Menneg that is not the case.
It is too easy to say that these paintings reference dreams – although they certainly do – they don’t just do that. Emilie’s paintings seem to tap into the structural framework of the ID, EGO and Super Ego that Sigmund Freud based much of his analysis and psychology on.
Conflict and fear based instinctual behaviors are aligned with impulsive and primal human activity – these elemental aspects of behavior dance through Emile’s paintings.
Riding a horse, kissing your love, talking in groups, running in fear – these activities have no time stamp – they have been around as long as humans have. The eyes in her subjects often reflect an hysterical intensity that is balanced by humor. I’m not nearly as affected as her subjects because I am too distracted in the color, texture and light in her paintings. Some often seem that they are back lit by black – if that is even possible?
It is possible – because it’s happening. The black and electricity make me think of the 90’s somehow – although Emilie was only 8 then – maybe she absorbed some teen angst. I kind of feel like her paintings are the result of an improbable scene: a happy couple in couple’s therapy with a lion, a seagull, a Salvador Dali clock, an air brush gun and a beach blanket. They are absurd, substantial and luminous in both dark and sweet ways. I urge you to follow Emilie along – she isn’t slowing down and from what I have seen she will keep you on your toes.
SUSPECTS is on view at Field Projects through October 20th.
Field Projects is open Thursday through Saturday 12-6pm and by appointment.