Emily Culver is a multimedia object maker originally from rural Pennsylvania. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, Phoenix, AZ; University of Georgia, Athens, GA; The Bavarian Association of Arts and Crafts, Munich, Germany; Baltimore Jewelry Center, Baltimore, MD; School 33, Baltimore, MD; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI; PLUG Projects, Kansas City, MO; Galerie Marzee, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Brooklyn Metal Works, Brooklyn, NY; Dowd Gallery at SUNY, Cortland, NY; Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA; FJORD Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; and The Metal Museum, Memphis, TN among others.
She has received various awards over the years such as the Stuart Thompson Haystack Fellowship in 2016; Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship in 2017; and a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2018 among others. She was also an Artist-in-Resident at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts from May of 2017 to June 2018.
Culver attended Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia where she received her Bachelors of Fine Art in Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM in 2012. In 2017, she received her Masters of Fine Art in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
In addition to maintaining a studio practice, Culver also teaches at institutions such as Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft, Pratt Fine Arts Center and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Currently located in Norfolk VA, Culver is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Old Dominion University.
I create works that reference existing objects and systems to question their perceived purpose. By presenting familiar communicative affordances - such as handles, vessels, and furniture - in uncharacteristic ways, the viewer is invited to re-frame their own understanding. In this process there is an unveiling and recognition of the viewer’s projection of self onto these objects and environments.
My work reveals the “toolness” of objects by questioning utilities or ideas of function/non-function. Like a prosthesis, a tool becomes the body, becomes an extension of the body’s capabilities. It becomes the way through which one interacts with the world, with space and with other objects. A tool translates needs, desires and channels the energy that one extends into it.
As objects that thwart their supposed purpose or whose intentions are difficult to read, my works deny expectation and performance. When this line of communication is left open an opportunity for a new relationship is made. Through this exchange one witnesses a possibility that exists other than or outside from histories that were previously constructed as truths and absolutes. A tool that subverts expectation is one that refuses to adhere, refuses to exist only as a thing which can be and only is one way.
I think of all materials, surfaces and forms in relation to the body - whether it be how one sees corporeal qualities in flexible rubbers, the way in which unglazed ceramic records touch, or how pristine metal surfaces fetishize physical engagement. I see skinness in color, texture and metaphorical function, but also in longing for and responsiveness to touch. My work represents humanness, embodied within inanimate things and in unexpected ways, in attempt to more fully and aptly experience the humanity within myself.
At times these works exist as poetry of form, material and function to be experienced in relation to the viewer's own physical self. They also become surrogate bodies by mirroring the complexities of sexuality, identity and relationships. As much as the experience of my work is housed within the cyclical relationship between the work and viewer, I also see myself yearning to be inserted as a tertiary component of this interaction.
In this way, my objects are also autobiographical in reconstructing and re-imaging moments of my own desire, longing, uncertainty and vulnerability; often taking form as Still Life compositions. As the choreographer of such assemblages, I cannot ignore that the products of these formed relationships must mirror my own projection of self. My desire to create these entities and then work to distinguish them as autonomous from preconceived understanding reflects what I wish for them and yearn for myself - a freedom in being.