Brooklyn's own Emily Manwaring is nothing short of exceptional. Her lively and vibrant work has been featured in galleries all over the world. Telling vibrant stories of prosperity and union, her work is rooted in the themes of culture, emotion, and female solace. Manwaring continues to develop her artistry through the experimentation of different mediums and how they can represent and celebrate her perceptions of humanity. We spoke with her about her roots, creative process, and advice to aspiring artists.
Talk about your roots. How did your hometown or culture inspire you and your work?
My hometown of New York is deeply rooted in my work. I can walk around the block and see so many moments that create inspiration for me to draw from. Around New York, I focus on the lighting in the area, color, people, and fashion. New York is so lively; there's always a renaissance inside of it to reach from, always a conversation to be held about what happens around us, and always a future to see in the distance of where we aspire to be. I also think about the multiverses around me and how I can honor Haiti and Trinidad in my art. I don’t see much representation of the Caribbean diaspora in art here, but when I go to the Caribbean, art flourishes everywhere and tells the history of the people. I try to change that narrative by having it become a language that is universal for all, seeing that there are so many connectivities throughout the diaspora.
Tell us about your medium(s) of art.
The mediums of art can transfer into multiple disciplines. For me, it's about what best tells the story I want to share and what’s my direct way to travel to my heart to explain this emotion. Sometimes, sculpture can communicate more of what I want to convey; other times, painting can. Dancing is another medium I think about often as you are painting the terrain with your body. Your soul is a part of it the same way song is and forming words together to create a melody, a chant, a prayer.
Can you tell us about your artistic journey? How did you first discover your passion for art, and how has your style evolved over the years?
My artistic journey started early in school. I really just wanted to find this protected, precious outlet that I can practice to keep me focused on my intention. It started with me drawing self-portraits, photos from my family album, and surrealistic landscapes, ones where I saw myself venturing out for sanctuary. Today, I still stay true to my intention of this radiance in my work, and over the years, I see my work changing in scale, mediums, and experimentation. Materiality has allowed me to create a world with my art, and through the years, it has grown with me.
What are the consistent themes and messages that we can find in your art?
The themes of my work center around prosperity and union. I think about cultural celebrations that the rhythm can be felt through art. A theme for my work can be more about where a person is in the world and how everyone interacts with each other in composition. The theme is more about an emotion being evoked. A consistent theme for me is women in their sanctuaries finding solace, and in others, there’s a crowd or family sharing a memory with each other.
What are some aesthetic commonalities we can see in your work?
I work with a vibrant color palette in all of my works. Color is such an important part of bringing what I depict to real life. My style of work is heavily based on collaging and piecing moments together to make a complete image. The commonalities are really the shared experiences that people can look at and relate to.
Could you describe your creative process? How do you approach a new project or idea?
Approaching a new project is very harmonious for me. I don't like to overthink the process. I appreciate the silence of growing things and letting them flow naturally as needed. When it's time to tap in, though, I’m full blown in my bag, making the piece happen and showing up in the physical as close as what I imagined it to be. Anytime an idea arises for a piece, I instantly write it down; I’ll have hundreds of ideas on standby that I hope to revisit. Maybe some of the ideas show up together in one piece like an amalgamation. Other times, the idea would travel to several works. A lot of my prepping for a piece is gathering my references, sketches, writing, voice memos, and anything that reminds me of the moment that I realized it should be a piece. A part of the process is the journey throughout daily life, where I see constant revelations for the work I’m making.
Describe your ideal work day.
Working through the night is ideal for me. I’m more of a nocturnal artist. Working at night gives me a sense of peace and quiet that is needed for my practice. It’s very rewarding for me when the sun rises, a new piece is created, and I begin a day with something I’m very proud of.
If you could go on a one-month art retreat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I know my family and I are from here, but I’m going to say Trinidad. I can just imagine myself in a studio on the mountain painting as I listen to the hummingbirds sing. Sunrises and sunsets would be the most beautiful thing to meet throughout the day. The experiences on the island would beautifully direct my work. It would be the perfect balance of a retreat and creating.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Don't rush. Enjoy the place that you currently are in your life, and don’t be afraid to take that risk that separates you from what other people think is “acceptable” or “perfect.” Experiment, experiment, experiment. Always think about a new way of presenting a piece or devising how a piece shows up in this world; there is no need to stick to one thing, being that life is ever-evolving and changing. Go for anything you want; let the most important dialogue be the one that happens within yourself.