Q&A: Emily Keating Snyder
The first time we met Emily Keating Snyder was at one of the GMD LA Tours last year.
We had already followed her on Instagram weeks before. Having seen her work, we were elated when she introduced herself. Along the way we became a media sponsor of open studio and earlier this year she was our special guest at a tour. It was only logical that we do a Q&A with her to discover more about herself and painting on canvas with embroidery.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Emily. There are about a million Emily Snyders in the world so I go by my full name, Emily Keating Snyder for my art. I work in a few different mediums, but my current focus is abstract painting with embroidery inlay.
Can you describe your embroidered paintings?
Color is the driving inspiration and force behind my embroidered paintings. The paint color comes first and the embroidery is there to guide the eye. I use different thread colors to complement or play off of the main color.
I’ve always been a crafter and an artist so bringing embroidery into my paintings happened very naturally. I had been using embroidery in a more traditional way—stitching Victorian motifs and weaving in vintage photographs—so it was already in my creative toolbox. When I began working on the paintings I knew I wanted to add some sort of framing that would continually redirect the eye to the paint color. Embroidery came to mind for its texture and the fact that it isn’t paint and therefore wouldn’t compete.
As with so many other women I’ve talked to, I learned embroidery from my mom who learned it from her grandmother. That’s one of my favorite things about incorporating thread, it brings with it a long and personal tradition of folk art.
Your embroidery features stunning bold color. What role does color play in your paintings?
Color is everything for me. For many years I had this idea of creating simple paintings to emphasize the experience of one pure color. One of my favorite artworks in the world is Ellsworth Kelly’s “Spectrum V” at The Met. I love how experiential it is, filling your whole view with color. In fact, long before I saw that piece, I remember being a kid and imagining ways to see only one color, like if I put my face up to the wall could I see just white? It’s actually very hard to do (side note, I think that’s why James Turrell’s work is so universally powerful).
I’ve had some interesting feelings come up around my color palettes. Bright and pastel colors have always been my favorite, but there’s a lot of baggage around them for me. Years of studying art and working in the art world gave me this complex that dark colors were more serious, more valuable. So painting and stitching in pink and turquoise has strangely become a bit of a quiet protest against the inner critic telling me I won’t be taken seriously.
This is actually interesting to think about because my favorite colors, like pale pink and neon orange, bring to mind feelings/words like happy, warm, safe, fun, playful. But, we seem to place intellectual importance on darker or more serious colors which can relate to difficult emotions. So for me it brings up a lot of questions around which emotions we value more and also the idea that traditionally feminine colors are usually taken less seriously than traditionally masculine colors.
What is your mantra?
I’m such a hippie. I have a mantra for everything, but creatively the one I rely on most is “done is better than perfect.” I’m constantly moving between a kid who just wants to have fun and make stuff versus a grown-up perfectionist. This helps me balance the two.
What are you most inspired by?
Color is obviously a huge inspiration, it’s something I notice everywhere. Interior design is also a major passion, so I love looking through magazines, blogs and Instagram for great spaces. I also get tons of inspiration from anything that can be made by hand. I love the simplicity and ingenuity of building and making, especially things that are quick and scrappy, not too precious.
I’m obsessed with watching videos about people who’ve built their own homes. For now that inspiration filters into mounting my paintings onto wood that I cut and sand myself. In the future, I hope to build more adventurous things (maybe a house!).
What’s next for you? Where is your art is going next?
Well, next I’ll be building that house... But first, I’m really trying to be more true to myself with my art. I still have those old insecurities lingering around working in “girly” colors, so the collection I’m beginning now will be all light and bright colors that genuinely make me (and hopefully others) feel happy. I also want to explore the history and science of colors more and incorporate those ideas in the future.
I’d love to continue exhibiting this work in the real world, creating that experience of color and three-dimensionality in person. For now, I plan to release my next collection on my website this summer and I’m working on some fun collaborations with interior designers, which I absolutely love. It’s great when people can interact with art in their own homes and everyday spaces.
Interview by Diane Lindquist