Emily Marie Charles

The surface of the water holds many secrets (you see your reflection, but you truly see yourself?) The surface of the water is a gateway into worlds unknown (when you dissolve the film between the land and sea you are reborn) You will always return to the surface of the water (you will find your grounding again) I find something incredibly rich about the surface of the water—in looking at the story of Narcissus it symbolizes ego but it also holds potential for transformation and rebirth. I have always been into narrative, so my current practice is consumed in building a world through painting that explores the surface of the water as a habitat and a personified character. In this world, the inhabitants are searching for a deeper understanding of themselves and the environment. The film separating land from sea is an obstacle for the creatures that exist here but becomes a channel for discovery.

I’ve been working on a world-building project in which water is a recurring element and I believe that being on an island I’ve never experienced while surrounded by water will catalyze the expansion of this project I’m consumed in. The creation of this new environment involves painting en plein air because recreating the landscape directly teaches me about the world (well, my perception of it),  but disappearing into my mind and nurturing my imagination and creativity through making paintings is also a large part of the process. Stepping away from reality causes me to question it in a way that teaches me more about my beliefs and perceptions. On Toronto Island, I’ll be engaging in both of these modes of painting to help develop the world I am creating—a place where things seem strange but are always laced with some sort of familiarity. A place of endless possibilities.


Emily Marie Charles is a recent graduate from the Painting and Drawing program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her paintings question the impossibilities of the world and embrace the notion of unknowingness as the means to understanding. She refers back to schools of thought like environmental philosophy, phenomenology and object-oriented ontology to inform her practice. As an emerging artist her work has been shown in the Dogwood Arts Annual exhibition (Knoxville), Land and Sea exhibition by Stoveworks (Chattanooga) and other shows in the Middle Tennessee Area.

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