Emily Taibleson: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Woman

by Robin Boland

 

Taibleson's contribution to the Columbia City Mural Project.
Taibleson’s contribution to the Columbia City Mural Project.

Artist Emily Taibleson went away to find her way back home. Her work currently on display at the Hillman City Collaboratory, a show entitled “Over the Stones on the Edge of a Bluff” (also the title of a compilation of poems she published in college), is a reflection of her personal journey as well as part of a larger community narrative. The story arc of the show follows Emily’s efforts to communicate her impressions and experiences on paper and canvas (and, in one piece that stayed with me, on dense burlap due to running out of canvas mid way through). Some pieces evoke the Northwest with color and texture, some reflect struggle and isolation in stark black and white. Throughout the show runs an underlying theme of connection and community.

One of Emily’s first jobs upon returning to the NW, after completing a rigorous arts program on the East coast, was a mural project intended as a vehicle to express the voices and stories of a group of at risk youth. In projects like this she acted as the framework within which the young artists learned to become the narrators of their own tale.  This community method of storytelling is again reflected in the Columbia City Mural Project, a large, vibrant mural on the west side of Rainier Ave S. (in the Hummingbird parking lot). A powerful piece, the mural project was a community effort weaving together a wide spectrum of voices. Emily was tasked with representing these contributors’ intimate stories and she did so with respect and consideration, feeling honored to represent these stories within the community. These projects highlighted for her what a privilege it is to have paint or canvas, to have a space to create or to display one’s work.  These things are ‘not a given’ despite what one might believe after being ensconced in an academic environment focused solely on creating art. The Collaboratory show in some ways reflects this change in her personal perspective, understanding the reality of privilege against the backdrop of being an artist.

Emily shared a sense of unburdening herself with this show, building off of the lessons she has learned up to now with an intention to re-focus and start fresh. Letting go of expectations, her own as well as the “industry’s”, has lead her to this jumping off place. The next chapter, blank canvas, awaits.

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