The domestic space is a recurring stage for my work. Home (especially now) is where we spend most of our lives, where we should feel safe and secure, where we eat and sleep and engage in the messiness of life. Home ownership is increasingly un-attainable due to wage stagnation and ballooning real estate appreciation. Coupled with rampant housing insecurity, staggering education debt and unaffordable healthcare, the “American Dream” is still put forth as a promise and an expectation. We yearn for security and belonging in a society where our worth and merit are reduced to pennies and dollars; we are overwhelmed with speculative debt because the world we inhabit reduces our lives to mere capital.
The Dream Home paintings grew out of a desire to own a home and a deep affinity for the kit homes of the 20th century. Kit homes were sold through catalogs, making home ownership both accessible and affordable. A consumer would purchase the materials and instructions for their own home, allowing homeowners to obtain individuality during the booms of planned communities. These paintings are similarly aspirational, dreamy and illustrative of the promise the kit homes provided.
The ceramic cakes also represent something unattainable; the promise of excess or luxury but without substance. The cake stands imply that the objects they display are desirable and consumable, though like the stands themselves they are inedible. The ‘Franklin Mint’ inspired plates present images of kit homes and recent real estate listings, reduced to collectibles, elevating ‘home’ to a status symbol. The Barbie cakes reflect the pressures and expectations to perform and conform to a specific version of gender. The figures are stuck in a cake, stuck in a mold, struggling against those limitations or submitting to them. Despite the weight of the meaning, the work is delicate and fantastical, beautiful and pleasing. It is this tension we engage with in our daily lives.
The global pandemic has highlighted the failures of capitalism and the rot of this country’s foundation. Is there any reality to the “American Dream” that we have sold the world and ourselves? How do we resolve the fabricated “American Dream” with the realities of housing insecurity, homelessness, bankruptcy, inaccessible healthcare and education? All of these inequities are further exacerbated by racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and white male supremacy. Can we dismantle these systems and create an American Dream that includes everyone?
I want to believe that we can be better.
Emily has been an active artist for over twenty years and a member of several artist groups, including The Exhibitionists and Open Ground. She received a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design and an MFA from Brooklyn College, City University of New York. In 2020 she was a recipient of the Queens Council for the Arts New Work Grant.
This exhibition is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.