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D I S C O R I C E

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"An educated guess concerning the exodus of summer" / gouache and ink on paper

"An educated guess concerning the exodus of summer" / gouache and ink on paper

Some of our favorite art has the ability to traverse time and space. It transports us to alternate universes, strange lands that evoke unfamiliar feelings or sensations, yet somehow also retain elemental, instinctual, or intuitive aspects of what we know deep down. Emily Kepulis is a working artist in Portland, Oregon, and her art does just that. We've admired her work for a long time, and asked her to tell us a bit about herself, her life, and to give us the lowdown her recent series, "Disco Rice." 

“Disco Rice” (the title of the current series) feels refined or cooked up a bit more, specifically in terms of narrative. Working intensely with the nonrepresentational for awhile allowed me to take a step further in exploring abstract narratives and forms that build on the tension between that which is representational and that which is not. I like it to get a little weird and question realities and perceptions. The titles (being one of my favorite parts of the whole process) aid in this while at the same time act as reifying agents for people. Looking back, earlier paintings were just large scale sketches. They enabled this fascination into that which becomes more understandable when its form is distorted.

With “Disco Rice,” I am working with a more atavistic technique, symbol-like repetitive imagery, rather than the traditionally taught skills of shading, convincing proportions, etc. I hope for the viewer to take the work and inevitably apply their own associations and experiences, out of which will form some kind of discourse.

“Disco Rice” comes from Elizabeth Royte’s book Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. She writes about how the garbage collectors in New York refer to maggots as “disco rice,” which is just lovely, and stuck with me like honey since the moment I read it. It’s a description of something already labeled that makes you see it in a totally new and exciting way, if only for a brief moment. James Wood’s “How Fiction Works” introduced me to Royte’s disco rice metaphor, and notes that metaphors “give us that sense that something has been newly painted before our eyes.” And a metaphor on fire, “estranges and then instantly connects, and in doing the latter so well, hides the former. The result is a tiny shock of surprise, followed by a feeling of inevitability.”

That disjunction inspires me. Having a background and an avid interest in both the visual arts and creative writing, and am influenced by the interaction between the two mediums and their ability to create illimitable meaning. Reality is relative and impressionable. It yields under influence.

My art tends to react to itself in a way, or at least behave cyclically, so usually I am working on a lot of different things at once. The content isn’t exclusive to a single piece or series; rather it represents a time less linear. What I’m working on currently seems to be a reaction to the large scale, abstract paintings I was working on earlier this year that were mainly concerned with form and space in their complete nonrepresentational existences.

I don’t see any other way. At least, no other way has communicated itself to me. The inconsistencies the lifestyle can bring monetarily and in terms of encouragement are something to navigate. But, as emphasized before, there doesn’t feel like any other choice but to manage it. And I don’t mean to label it as burdensome. It is a totally breathtaking reality that I am able to give it a go.

Emily Kepulis

Find Emily on Instagram @emilykepulis
or go to www.emilykepulis.com  
to view and purchase more of her work. 

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