Emily Somoskey


These works take a look at the subjectivity in how we experience and navigate physical and psychological space, most of which I locate within an ambiguous, yet familiar domestic environment.


Emily Somoskey is an artist and educator from Akron, OH, currently living in Lansing MI. She earned a BA in Art Education with a minor in painting in 2013 from The University of Akron’s Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, in Akron, OH. She is currently working towards finishing her MFA at Michigan State University, which she will be earning in May 2020.


Using paint, collage, and mixed-media, Emily’s current work explores the ways we simultaneously experience physical and mental space. Rooted in domestic interiors, she references the shifting and overlapping nature of our experience with the sensate and psychological realms; giving form to the complexity, instability, and enigmatic nature of our lived experiences.

Bedrock - oil & collaged digital prints on canvas - 2019

Your work seems to shift back and forth between very flat and deep pictorial space. Can you talk about your conceptual use of depth?

In my work, I reference the ways in which we experience physical and psychological space simultaneously. Our experience in “actual” space is so much informed about our perception, which is continually shifting from moment to moment. I use visual tension between flatness vs. space, along with varying levels of representation and abstraction to allude to and fuse these two worlds.

Cascade - oil & collaged digital prints on canvas - 2019

Can you tell us about the layering, erasure, and history present in the work?

I often think about how abstract painting can speak beyond the literal and give a visual language to things we feel. Through my paintings, I create environments that feel multi-sensory and evocative, as if they are spaces that are filled with memories of past times, future plans and even interactions beyond the space itself that we bring into and project onto our homes I aim to create spaces that feel atmospheric, ephemeral and as if they are in continual flux.

Within the painting, Cascade, I wanted to evoke a sense of energy and optimism alongside nostalgia and remnant things that are no longer there. This piece references the passing of time through the use of negative space to place emphasis on “emptiness”, and forms seamlessly transition from one to the next alluding to the ambiguity of memory and the subjectivity of our experiences.

The Jungle - oil & collaged digital prints on canvas - 2019

Many of your photographs, particularly those that depict interior spaces and figures, seem to suggest narrative qualities. Is conveying a story, even minimally, important to you?

Beyond suggesting a narrative, I think about ways to open up the read of the spaces I’m portraying so that viewers can find different ways to interpret it beyond the literal. I think about ways to complicate the space, so that I’m not just depicting a living room scene, but that it’s a space to project and reflect, offering multiple interpretations and moments for the viewer to discover. In the painting, The Jungle, it loosely deals with the idea of Amazon and mass produced materials that construct our environments, but In giving a title like the jungle, it changes the way that these forms can be viewed. When you start to contemplate or look at the painting through that lens, things metamorphosize beyond their literal appearance. The rolls of fabric almost become snakes that are creeping into the scene, or the looseness of this paint application at the top alludes to a canopy of trees. A lot of my titles allude to nature in some way, highlighting the often unacknowledged connections between natural and domestic spaces.

Nested - oil & collaged digital prints on canvas - 2020

Can you elaborate on your blending of analog and digital approaches to painting? Tell us more about the relationship between the hand and technology.

I transition back and forth between the analog and the digital pretty frequently when working on these pieces. The collaged components are generally found or manipulated digitally, and then printed and collaged in physical space. I also go back and forth between working on the canvas, and taking images to draw on or edit in photoshop to play around with creative decision-making before applying them to the large scale physicality of the painting. Because my recent paintings have been so large (84”x 96”) it helps to have a digital “test space” where I can enact creative decisions without mixing and applying large quantities of paint. Inevitably, there is a difference in how certain marks and color affect the composition between the screen and the canvas. Sometimes I end up making a move on the canvas that I thought would bring the whole piece together when I rendered it digitally, but it just doesn’t work how I thought it would. Either way, it adds more information to work though and layers of depth to the piece. These two different methods allow me to change the pace that I’m working at, speeding up and slowing down at different intervals as I go back and forth between the analog and the digital. It also allows me to work intuitively and analytically and complicates the language of the work.

On a material level, I also investigate ways to integrate paint and collaged prints so that at times there’s no clear delineation between the two. Although both are essentially pigment on a support, they have extremely different material characteristics. With paper, there is also an edge that sits separate from the canvas. In an attempt to merge the mediums, I often use stencils to apply paint. Stencils allow the paint to take on the aesthetic of collage, and in turn I also photograph areas of paint to collage into it so that it becomes difficult to discern one from the other --but there are also areas where it stands out as an articulator or disruptor to the surface. I utilize each medium’s inherent qualities to complicate the language of the work, and at times reverse their expected visual aesthetic.

Low Tide - oil & collaged digital prints on canvas - 2019

You depict a very strong, though stylized, sense of place. What informs these interior, domestic locations?

The way that I think about space comes from my background growing up in a middle class, suburban household in rural northeast Ohio. Even at a young age I took notice of how my friend’s houses were almost exact reflections of my own on an architectural level, which made me curious about the differences in how we experience and navigate day to day life in these similar kinds of spaces. I reference these kinds of homes quite a bit in my work, and I think a lot about how the everyday or the mundane exists in parallel with our deeply complex emotions and psyche. These works take a look at the subjectivity in how we experience and navigate physical and psychological space, most of which I locate within an ambiguous, yet familiar domestic environment.