Interview with Emily Garfield as told to Michael J. Esptein.
Can you give a brief overview of what you do?
I make abstract, often intricate drawings that are inspired by how people self-organize into things like networks and cities. In a way they’re maps, but they’re maps of places I make up as I draw.
Are there some past projects you would like to mention in more detail?
I’ve been drawing maps continuously since I’ve lived in Somerville, but other than drawing I’ve also been really interested in art education (for various ages and levels) and installation projects. I recently taught a workshop at the DeCordova Museum where we mapped the area around us based on our emotional experience instead of objective data, and that was really rewarding—for me just as much as for the participants.
Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up?
So many projects! I’m really excited to be working on more animation projects. I’ve been making abstract, atmospheric animations that are essentially moving versions of my drawings in some ways. There are angles I’m interested in that are more effectively conveyed through motion instead of static images.
Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it?
I couldn’t not do what I do. I’ve always been making things and drawing things, and it’s just lucky that enough people like them that I’ve been able to draw for a career; I’d be drawing regardless. In that way it’s my living and also my hobby at the same time. I’m also researching at the same time; I read a lot about urban theory, networks, emergence, etc and it’s stimulating to continue pushing the subjects I’m interested in by expressing them in art. Sketching is a big part of my art practice and it’s always fun to see new ideas come through in my sketchbooks.
What inspired you to pursue the arts? What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.)
The Somerville arts community has been huge for me. I started volunteering for Somerville Open Studios when I moved here almost six years ago, and coordinated the event last year. I’ve also had a studio at Artisan’s Asylum for a few years and am currently on the board there. Getting involved has made a huge difference; now I know many more people who are going through the same struggles and who are inspiring me with their solutions and their work.
A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?
Definitely not easy. The finances obviously are a struggle. Socially, sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect between the kind of life an artist’s expected to have and the type of businessperson you have to actually be to get by. I’m really running my own small business, but the way people interact with me I get that they expect that I spend most of my time making pretty pictures. Sometimes just overcoming peoples’ assumptions is the hardest part of fielding public interactions.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene?
I’m from New York City, and I’ve often been asked why I didn’t stay there to be an artist. I think there are opportunities I’ve gotten here that I would never have there, in my impression. For one, I’m very excited about how directly art projects can come into being here. There are a ton of examples in public art, but one that stands out to me is the Tiny Museum in Union Square.
Where can people find your work online?