Interview: Emma Salamon on Vanitas

We talk with artist Emma Salamon about her artistic interests and her work Vanitas on view at The Galleries through December 8.

Emma Salamon installing her work Vanitas

TGAM: Your work Vanitas is site-specific, but you’re using balloons covered in wax – materials that you’ve used in previous works. How is this site-specific installation different from past works, and what initially drew you to these materials?

ES: I have been working with balloons dipped in wax this past year and have been responding to different spaces. Each time this work gets installed it reacts to the space, and is changed. This installation for The Galleries at Moore is different in the sense that it is made specifically with the dimensions of the space in mind, and it is spilling out of the ceiling instead of the wall. I’ve wanted to make a bigger installation of these balloons for a while now, and this space is a great opportunity to do so.

The transformation of materials is very important to me. The balloons are deflated and dipped in wax which alters them from being just balloons. They become bodily metaphors or reminders of nature.  I was initially drawn to balloons for their possession of air, representing a specific moment in life. I wanted to preserve that “moment” and dipped the balloon in wax, disabling the deflation process.

Deflated Veil, 2011, balloons, wax, and string, Courtesy the artist

TGAM: Glass-making falls under the umbrella of craft. Is that an association that you embrace? The performative work that you do as part of The Burnt Asphalt Family seems like a way for you and the other glass artists involved to avoid being pigeonholed as craft artists.

ES: I embrace the history of crafts, and the evolution of glass as a material, but I do not associate myself as a craft artist. Craftsmanship is very important to me, and coming from a craft background I pay special attention to detail and structure.

With The Burnt Asphalt Family I feel as though we celebrate the definitions of craft by challenging the perception of material and process.We don’t disregard traditional glassblowing but use its techniques to create forms to cook food – for example the hot glass dome that was placed over the turkey in Turkey Dinner to hold heat around the turkey in order to cook it.  The glass studio is transformed from a place where not only objects are made, but a place where glass is used as a material for cooking and for spectacle. The members of The Burnt Asphalt Family come from different places of crafts and fine art, which we cherish and use to our advantage.

Emma Salamon, Erika Rosenfeld, and Skitch Manion, Thanksgiving Dinner, 2007, Courtesy the artist

TGAM: Are your interests as part of The Burnt Asphalt Family different from your personal, artistic interests?

ES: I have used my personal ideas and interests to inspire my role within The Burnt Asphalt’s performances. The structures I build for the performances are always inspired by my own work. Being a part and co-founder has definitely inspired my work with food and performance, such as making installations with butter, and being part of a glass fashion show. So, no, I don’t think my interests between the two are very different. They feed each other. I think the final result obviously is different because one is done alone and is very personal and the other is done within a collaboration of artists.

Emma Salamon’s site-responsive installation, Vanitas, will be on view at The Galleries at Moore’s Window on Race exhibition space through December 8.

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