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Artist Emily Zuch

Emily Zuch is an observational painter who works from elaborate set-ups in her studio. She received a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008 and an MFA from New York Studio School in 2011. Emily was granted a Fulbright Research and Study award in Painting and Printmaking to Germany in 2014, where she was an artist in residence at the theater Lindfels Westflugel.

Emily has participated in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and received grants such as the Hohenberg Travel Award. Emily has attended art residencies including Yaddo, Jentel Foundation, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and Chautauqua. She currently teaches at Pratt Institute and Wagner College. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

"My paintings explore the interchangeability of the real and unreal, and ways to straddle the very fine line between the two. The paintings show a world of tension where mirrors, windows and pictures within pictures create a maze of various realities. Any postcard, playing card or reflection has the power to take you somewhere else. To me this mimics life, rather than as a static scene we perceive the world as multi-layered and ever shifting.

I achieve this effect by setting up my studio with mirrors, reflections in windows, cards and reproductions of other paintings, then paint the whole scene directly from life. The paintings are filled with everyday objects from my studio, but by placing them in a certain way they become unfamiliar. By positioning a mirror or a window at a certain point in the composition, a completely ordinary room comes apart to show a strange and fragmented world."

Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.

I grew up in a suburb about an hour north of New York City. I was interested in all types of art as a child, painting and drawing as well as singing, dancing and writing, pretty much anything that involved self expression. I became more serious about visual art as a teenager, and studied painting at Maryland Institute College of Art and New York Studio School. I've been painting ever since.

What kind of work are you currently making?

Right now I mainly focus on large scale oil paintings from observation. I make set-ups in my studio involving mirrors and objects that I have, plants, postcards, playing cards and other tchotchkes. The window in my studio normally plays a large role in most of the paintings, and I appear in them as well, sometimes centrally as in a traditional self portrait and sometimes in the periphery of the composition or with my face covered. I also make small pieces in other mediums along side the bigger work as a way to play around or just to have something to work on when the light isn't right for the larger pieces.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

Every day is a little different. My studio is a room in my apartment so days can become a patchwork of painting and working on teaching-related things, though I try to minimize distraction as much as I can to give myself uninterrupted painting time. The nice thing about my studio being where I live is that it's very easy to leave and come back, so sometimes when I think I'm done for the day I will convince myself to go back in the studio and work a few extra hours. The border between painting and the rest of life is very permeable right now, which has its pros and cons.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

Some of my favorite art shows I've seen recently have been Jane Freilicher/Thomas Nozkowski, Lisa Yuskavage and Lois Dodd. Jane Freilicher particularly stuck with me, the way she uses color is really beautiful and unexpected. I also took a trip last month to see the Titian show at the Gardner museum and the Albert Pinkham Ryder show at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, both amazing exhibitions.

In terms of reading, I just started "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead" by Olga Tokarczuk, and I'm listening to the audio book of "Truth of the Divine" by Lindsay Ellis in the studio.

Where can we find more of your work?

My work will be part of a group show at Alice Gauvin Gallery in Portland, Maine opening in December, and I will be part of a two-person exhibition at Wagner College's Union Gallery in Staten Island in March. You can see more of my work on my website at, and on Instagram @emilyzuch

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