Alumna Profile: Emma Wilson
Instructor, Catawba Valley Community College
Studio Manager at Warehouse Arts in North Carolina
What attracted you to study at UM?
“I grew up in a very community-oriented environment at potlucks with graduate students, in psychology lab meetings, and going to the University of Mississippi women’s basketball games. My dad, as a professor at UM, gave me insight into the academic world that encouraged me to pursue an education at that same institution. Starting at such a young age I was able to closely observe small graduate seminars, large academic conferences, and the familial relationships born out of academia. Though I may have not recognized it when first applying to college, these experiences are what drove me to be a part of a small town, community-oriented school like the University of Mississippi.
Why (when) did you decide to pursue art in college? Why ceramics?
Once in college, I started as a psychology major but I have always been interested in art. There were three main classes that encouraged me to change my major: 2D Design which was taught by a ceramics graduate student (Sarah Teasley), Brooke White’s Black and White Photography class, and Beginning Ceramics. Ultimately, Matt Long and Brooke White are the professors who inspired and encouraged me to pursue my BFA degree, MFA degree, and a career in the arts.
I continue to make work that relates to the excitement and curiosity that I felt when I first tried working with clay. I quickly fell in love with the three-dimensional possibilities and tactile relationship with the medium especially as I transitioned from photography to functional pottery to larger scaled ceramic sculptures. The physical movement that came with sculpting clay along with the deeply emotive qualities of the medium inspired me more than any other area of study.
In what ways did you go beyond the studio in your education?
UM ceramics provided me with the opportunity to attend conferences, workshops, art fairs from the seller’s perspective, wood firings, and so much more. I became an active member of The Mud Daubers as their treasurer, which is a student-run organization for advanced ceramics students.
What has been your path since graduating from UM?
Upon completing my MFA degree in ceramics at Bowling Green State University I accepted an adjunct teaching position at Catawba Valley Community College as well as a position as the Studio Manager at Warehouse Arts in North Carolina (which is owned by UM MFA graduate Preston Tolbert).
Tell us about the themes of your work.
Through a surreal series of humanoid, clay sculptures my current body of work delves into the intersection between the complexities of human behavior, posthumanism, and the philosophical concept of absurdism by depicting a new human species made out of unnaturally large fingers and fleshy masses. In this body of work, fingers represent a universal human desire for communication, physical contact, and understanding. Physical and social connection is deeply rooted in the survival of the human race. Given the current pandemic and those to come, we may need to explore the potential for meaningful social contact in a physically distanced world. Thus, the importance of fingers as a metaphor in my work especially now. They relate to one of our strongest senses: touch. A sense that by no means is exclusively human but remains a defining factor in our humanity as it speaks to both physicality and the social nature of human beings. Fingers become a vessel to create visually ridiculous characters out of something that is ubiquitous to humans and I use that absurdity to explore the more abstract qualities of humanity, such as the extreme absurdity of our existence.”