Emily Chase began creating installation art in 2018, during her Tulsa Artist Fellowship in Oklahoma. Since she had plenty of space there, she started working larger. She was also given a stipend that enabled her to hire help with production or items too large to handle on her own. She said a lot of her art practice has relied on how much room she’s had and her access to materials.
Chase’s sculptural art was born of her love of drawing and a “what if” sense of exploration. She began experimenting, creating paper sculptures through sewing and hand cutting. She made paper dresses, which were never “just dresses.” In her early works, she used fairytales to express feelings: hiding a scene, a character, or a prop within the dresses and inviting the viewer to take a closer look. Further experimentation with paper led to illuminated papercuts of intriguing scenes. Her work is always more than meets the eye at first glance.
Carry It With You; Reflecting on her transitory experiences as a child, Chase reimagines home as a space you can carry with you on your back, a little house trailing smoke.
All in Knots; This full-size dress uses the story of Little Red Riding Hood to explore feelings of anger and guilt which become a tangled internal forest, making it easy to lose your way.
She said she is “kind of a magpie,” constantly collecting ideas and materials that interest her and often doing many things at once. She loves to try new things and looks for innovative ways to accomplish her artistic goals. No matter what she is working on, Chase’s artwork has an underlying story, expressing or dealing with emotions and feelings. This prolific young artist creates her art to grapple with painful experiences in a beautiful way.
Chase has moved around a lot, and as a result, her work speaks to the transitory nature of her life and memories of those varied experiences. She said a lot of her work overlaps, one artwork leading to the next.
Memory Box depicts Chase and her grandmother, Pauline, lost in a tangle of geometric quilt blocks and dense foliage. Between them, they attempt to follow the snarled length of thread, a metaphor for the disruption of memory they both experienced.
Memory Box explores memory loss, along with the ensuing grief. Chase suffered a concussion in 2017 that caused a variety of symptoms, including memory loss. At the same time, her grandmother had developed worsening dementia. So, while Chase was dealing with her own losses and confusion, she was also coping with the loss of her grandmother as she knew her. Life was like “a tangled thread between us,” she said. This layered, intricately cut, paper installation—an illuminated tunnel you can actually walk through—addresses Chase’s connection with her grandmother, as well as the connections between us all and how we need to work to maintain those connections.
Hope Chest continues this storyline, using a paper quilt as a symbol of memories and as a marker of location. A quilt is a “symbol of home,” she said, something we take with us when we move on, much like our memories.
Chase is driven by her need to always learn more. She said sometimes she “leaps before she looks,” taking on a new project without investigating all that may be involved. But that has never stopped her, and she has learned a lot along the way, enabling her to expand her artistic endeavors.
One of the many constants in her work is its beauty—not only of the artwork itself but also of the stories and emotion behind it. Be sure to visit her website to see more of her work. emilychaseart.com
Barbara Delaney is a wordsmith, avid sewer, and quilter who calls Massachusetts home.
Her largest scale installation to date, Hope Chest becomes a floating sky, an environment which can be folded and unfolded wherever you find yourself.