STUDIO TOUR: Emilie Stark-Menneg

I was first introduced to Emilie's work when I took my daughter and her friend to see the Portland Museum of Art's biennial "You Can't Get There From Here." We eventually reached a corner with a clawfoot tub filled with a wooden barrel and other objects, seashells hooked up to old phone cords playing music you can hear when you hold them up to your ears, and a video playing as part of another piece in the installation. The girls were completely fascinated and spent the most time exploring Emilie's work and even sketching it from the bench nearby.

I admit, I was super curious to know more about the person who created this particular piece and wanted to find out what her creative process was like. So I wrote down her name and tucked it into my pocket. When I scheduled my visit with Richard Keen, he also suggested I check out another artist who has a studio in the same building. He passed along her name and I realized it was Emilie! So we met, we talked, she gave me a tour of her studio (which really feels like a magical wonderland full of happy things), and I got to see some of her process.

Emilie has a refreshing zest for life, and her ability to create something so her own and explore different processes without boundaries is inspiring. To find out more, read Emilie's Q&A below and see more photos of her studio space.

Describe your work in three words.
Audacious, energetic, joyful.

What is your earliest memory of creating something?

I drew constantly, told epic plot-less stories, and made video art starting at age 4. I think my earliest memory is of drawing people with no necks. I also loved building forts and harvesting clay from river banks to bake into pots. 

How does your studio space influence your work? It is quite an impressive space!

My studio space gives me endless pleasure. It’s within the always buzzing Fort Andross, a building filled with awesome artists. My boyfriend, the artist John Bisbee has generously given part of his space to me and a few other artists. Seeing his sculptures everyday makes me giddy! The sunlight, the expanse, and the raw potential make this space sing. I’m sensitive to my environment; having a studio that sustains flow is very important to me.

What is your artistic process like? Where do your ideas come from? How long until you make your ideas a reality?

My process is very intuitive, playful, and sometimes terrifying. I am constantly oscillating between conjuring magic and just seeing what will happen. I also love collaborating, bouncing around with other spirits. Sometimes I think, sketch, work through a project for months-but the final push is usually pretty focused and fast.

I recently saw your installation at the biennial at PMA. Tell me a little about where that concept came from? My daughter and her friend loved it! Especially listening to the shells…

Thank you! It was such an honor to work with the curator Alison Ferris and be a part of the show. The project started with a surprise birthday present for John. I built him a raft made from refuse that rolled in on the tide. The musician McKay Belk composed an original score for the video which played out of seashells in the gallery. The piece is about lovers lost at sea helping each other survive.

What does a day in the studio look like?

I usually get to the studio between 8 and 9 am. We break for lunch and then back to work till about 6. Sometimes I go out and about, scavenging for materials.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The thing I am working on the most is ease. I think it is an elemental life energy. I also think poise is important. Because I work across many disciplines I am always trying to hone in on the essential while maintaining range. My motto is, ever more open and free.

Where do you hope to be in ten years?

Making art!


Thank you Emilie for sharing your and studio space with us!

Find Emilie's website here!

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