Interview with Emma Barnes

This week we interviewed Emma Barnes, a multidisciplinary artist living in Richmond, VA. Her piece, Folding, is displayed in our current exhibition, Emergence

 Folding by Emma Barnes

Folding by Emma Barnes

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am a recent VCU graduate with a double major in Gender Studies and Painting and Printmaking. I like biking around Richmond, talking to my plants, watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, knitting, and spending time with my friends.

 The majority of my recent work consists of screen prints. I love being able to make prints, multiples -- to share, sell, trade, give away.

I also enjoy collaborative work, and making art with my friends! I collaborate the most with my best friend Elisa Rios but look forward to working with many artists. Our collaborative work takes many forms. Some days we write poems together that we print on our clothes, sometimes we scheme and dream up flags, and sometimes we make t-shirts for a local barbershop together. A couple months ago we spackled fake petals to a gallery wall in the shape of our horoscope constellations! I am excited about continuing to work with Elisa and other artists inside and outside of Richmond.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
So many things – my family, my friends, contact paper, bandanas, clothes, song lyrics, plants. And a lot of the time everyday personal experiences as small as folding clothes.

I find inspiration from common printed objects like the near invisible floral patterns on toilet paper and I like Stridex pads that collect the dirt off my face. These inconsequential moments combined with small monumental objects help me reconcile conflicting personal experiences through the sense of touch. I am inspired by how clothing functions as a performative material or as a manufactured skin that can be stepped into or shed. For example my piece, Folding was made not long after folding my friend’s laundry. After this, I became interested in how clothing functions as a shell, a performative layer for our surface. There is something intriguing about the process of folding up these moments we wear in piles, neatly organizing ourselves to hide away until we open the drawer to cover up again.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My sewing machine right now! But it varies. I have been making a lot of bandanas recently and I’ve become more and more attached to my sewing machine. I really enjoy how versatile fabric can be as a piece of art -- you can put in in our pocket hang it up, sew it onto clothing, blankets, backpacks.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
All my friends are my favorite artists.  Brooke Inman, Elisa Rios, Kelsie Conley, Jennifer Guillen , Mara Hyman, Rellie Brewer, just to name a few! I am also really inspired by the hard work and ambition of Ashley Hawkins at Studio Two Three. And of course -- my Mom, Aunt Kathryn, and Mama Ko!

See more of Emma's work at