Emily Burns /// Media Sugar
Growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, without television, and in close contact with the natural world had a profound impact on my life and work as an artist. The tactile, hands-on nature of my childhood dramatically shaped my experience and perspective. Largely spared from the influence of TV and advertising as a child, this idyllic worldview was punctured by the introduction of the personal computer and the Internet. The cognitive shift from a largely analog upbringing to a digitally-centered and highly connected lifestyle permanently heightened my awareness of the breadth of the effects of newly adopted communication tools. As a painter, my work incorporates and questions the relationships between the natural and the artificial, and the real and the digital, and the tangible and the pixelated, and seeks to illuminate the resulting effects on our consciousness.
My current series of paintings incorporate highly stylized, vector-inspired and semi-abstract floral motifs and designs. The works are highly influenced by the infinite nature of patterns, and the dichotomous symbolism of the flower throughout history. The flower evokes myriad connotations, including life and death, and corresponding sentiments of joy and melancholy. Through these works, I am interested in highlighting the cognitive effects of the transition into the digital age, and provide reflection into an age of fragmented thinking, multitasking, and media addiction.
As media “filter bubbles” proliferate online, Internet users become numbed to the outside world, preferring to exist in highly personalized ideological spheres. These isolated cyber worlds provide an increasingly misleading experience of the world through a digital lens, and create scenarios where distraction rules, empathy diminishes, and constructive cross-cultural interactions wane.
In addition, this series provides an inquiry into our current and future relationship with the natural environment. The compositions imagine quasi-dystopian, digitally fabricated organisms that examine the precarious correlation between intention and action in regard to the planet. The connection between humans and the rapidly changing climate, the apocalypse, and our simultaneous dependence upon and detachment from these crucial ecosystems are significant themes.
Research methods for this body of work include the study of new technology and media including personal computers, the Internet, social media and cell phone advancement through the lens of media theory, psychology and sociology. The theoretical approach incorporates the work of Marshal McLuhan, Neil Postman, Nicholas Carr, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, and others in determining and questioning the most influential factors affecting societies and our cultures now and into the future.
Using matte acrylic paint in vibrant colors on a flat canvas, the finished paintings challenge the digital nature of their design and ideation by becoming large-scale, tangible objects that relate to the body via their physical size and tactile surface. The paintings become colossal monuments, articulating an aesthetic that is both delightful and cautionary. The vibrant compositions invite recirculation into the digital landscape, as they solicit their visual presence and re-entry into the digital sphere via selfies and Instagram posts.