Emily Funkhouser is an artist and educator currently living in San Jose, California. She holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the Gallatin School of New York University, and an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Additionally, she has studied at institutions including Parsons, Spéos, Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, and Rhode Island School of Design.
After a brief time considering the art scene of New York City, she moved on to the more lucrative field of education. In parallel to traditional studio practice, Emily has spent over a decade leveraging visual and poetic languages as modes of expression, understanding, and advocacy within the realm of education. She has been a Curriculum Specialist at Google’s childcare centers since 2008, during which time she has offered consultation, facilitated workshops, designed physical learning spaces and materials, and created publications and exhibits to highlight the power of childhood.
Emily’s body of work is informed by long walks in the wilderness which she translates into paintings, ceramics, and functional objects.
My work consists of investigations of landscapes, translated to accessible forms in order to engage diverse audiences in exploring relationships to the natural world. Traditional landscape paintings and photography are extended to daily objects such as functional pottery and streetwear through romanticised brushwork, palettes, and textures, as well as graphic interpretations.
This extension plays with ideas of commodification, branding, and customization as modes of expression and tools of identity. The work explores how constructed stories find their way into personal narratives.1 You are invited to consider the tipping point when obsession leads to the destruction of what we value. And ultimately challenged to consider human relationships with the geological landscape in which we reside.
My artistic practice is grounded in experience: long walks through the wilderness of unpopulated country and urban landscapes. Intentional movement, seeing, and listening in these spaces is brought back to the studio to be made sense of in material.2 I rely on traditional painting media -- in particular oil on canvas, and ink on paper -- which are then brought to additional forms: ceramics, sneakers, sweatshirts, etc. 3
Often, I put my art through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Conjuring the history of assemblage artists, the practice of Kintsugi, and the Buddhist pursuit of non-attachment, I will cut or break apart elements of a piece, arrange the components and then attach them with adhesives or binding. In 2019, I began to study sneaker decon/recon.4 This has been a heavy influence on my current projects.5 Crossing into the realm of streetwear customization opens up opportunities to experiment with the power of logos and brands as symbols of value.
We have created language and cultural systems to perpetuate division between wild and tamed, organic and manufactured, other and self. This demands further exploration. Through my practice, I seek to resolve the tension between concepts of natural and man-made, to inspire connection and encourage advocacy for each-other and our world.6
My work asks us to see ourselves within a larger narrative. Adapting the stories of landscape into functional wares brings this intimation to the audience’s daily life.
See Instagram 2010-present, Snapchat 2011-present, et al.
2 Note: I am engaging in these spaces as a single, able-bodied, heterosexual, white, cisgender woman. This presents specific privileges and hindrances to the experience, some of which are considered, others I remain unconscious of for the time being.
3 When I began selling small-batch pottery, I noticed that these functional objects were getting a response from a new audience. The people who approached me, not only engaged with the physical objects but were also interested in the story of their production and shared their own stories in exchange.
4 See “Shoe Surgeon” Dominic Ciambrone, et al.
5 Additional influences include every man who has ever spurned me in love
6 An interesting study of attendees to ARTCOP21 in 2015 revealed that the works of art which inspired the greatest sense of agency and action in the audience were those which provided a sense of joy and awe for nature. I’m trying to do that.