Emily Fuller, American (1941 - )

Emily Fuller

I was born in New York City and moved to Oyster Bay, Long Island as a toddler. As a child I loved roaming in the surround woods riding my bike on the quiet roads to visit friends. My parents kept chickens a few ducks, and turkeys. They planted flowering dogwood trees, rhododendron, laurel, azalea bushes, perennial flower beds, and a vegetable garden. These gardens made me very aware and interested in color and texture.

As a child, a huge influence on me was my grandmother, Lucy W. Hurry (listed in WHO WAS WHO IN AMERICAN ART), a locally known Long Island still life watercolorist, who exhibited and sold her work. Her studio, a separate building in her garden, was a fascinating place filled with props for her still life painting. She had several 19th Century child size boat models hanging from the rafters. Props she used in her still life painting were 19th Century wooden sailing ship name plates, duck & goose decoys, antique costumes, material, band boxes, and Oriental export china. She was very dedicated and painted in her studio every morning from 9-12:30pm. Nobody was allowed to disturb her, no phone calls, nothing.

Along with my grandmother’s artistic influence, my interest in making art truly developed as a result of the positive comments of my teachers throughout my elementary and high school attendance. Art became my most important contribution at school in science, and on the school paper. I was taught to draw still life and paint with oil paint on canvas at the Oldfields School (high school) and I felt validated.

I went to Garland Junior College in Boston where all students, in order to fulfill the degree requirements, had to earn one semester’s credit by taking the sewing course. I found I was good at it and liked it so much I took sewing for 2 years. I started making all my clothes when my mother gave me a portable Singer sewing machine. I became more involved in painting and decided to go to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, otherwise known as the Boston Museum School. There I majored in painting and took a BS in art education from Tufts University.

After graduating from Tufts I moved to New York where I found work at The Museum of Modern Art. While working at MOMA I came into daily contact with curators, architects and artists who brought their work in to show the curators. In 1968 I decided to go back to study painting after work at night. I studied with Richard Mayhew at the Art Student’s League where I made abstract stained landscapes. These landscapes had vivid jarring colors & shapes.

In 1971-72 I started to sew canvas and make large abstract acrylic landscape paintings. I thought of these paintings as landscape maps with horizontal panels of different depth sewn together and a narrow vertical on one or both ends. I was influenced by Jasper Johns’ maps of the United States and the world.

I bought an industrial Singer sewing machine to sew the canvas and the paper pieces I started to do in 1978. These pieces were made of cold pressed paper sewn together,
layer on layer. The cold pressed paper had rough surface reminded me of hand made paper. After a piece was sewn together, I marked the surface with sharp wood cutting
tools. The whole piece was painted in acrylic wash with the marks highlighted darker on the scared surface.

The markings were shorthand for trees, vegetables planted in rows, and animal tracks made in the landscape. Then the paper pieces began to develop into windows with shutters, becoming triptychs, with the window in the middle and 2 shutters, one on either side of the middle.

After 1981 I started making more realistic representations of landscape. To acquire more technical skill in representation, I studied with John Parks at The School of Visual Arts.

Over the last 10 years I have painted direct representation on site, mostly in northeastern Dutchess County, New York, where there is a great deal of land used for agrarian purposes and farm buildings. Area farmers alternate crops in twenty-forty horizontal rows of corn and alfalfa planted in horizontal bands across the hills of the area. Having been an abstract painter at one time, these repetitious horizontal blocks of color and texture are appealing to me as subject matter.

Some of my favorite times of year to paint are in the crop cycle of spring, summer, and fall, April through October. In spring the hillsides are earth colored, before the corn comes up and partly green from quick growing alfalfa. Summer brings fully matured crops, and fall has rows of dried corn stalks that will be chopped up into winter feed for cattle.

I always take photographs of what I am painting on site. I paint in one location in the morning and another spot in the afternoon because of changing light sources. Within a week or two quick changes take place with the appearance of the green corn so recording those changes by photograph is a good reference for me. If I have to I can finish the work in my studio. In the winter I rely on my last summer’s photographs for subject matter in painting.

I like to work outside when the sky is clearly blue with or without clouds. Generally the clouds roll or drift from the west to the east over the hills on the east side of the Hudson River, known alternately as the Taconic or Harlem Valley Hills. They are really very old mountain ridges that range north south becoming the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of western Vermont.

I wouldn’t call the paintings completely accurate, but rather that in my way of working, I create a personal distillation of landscape. The marks and shapes in my current paintings continue the process of abstract exploration I started in my sewn paper work of the late 1970’s. My focus is on shapes and layers that fit together in the landscape.

I want to record the landscape of the surrounding area before more farmers give up farming in Dutchess & Columbia Counties.

- Emily Fuller 2010

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