Emily Arthur


Emily Arthur

Printer Matter: Land Lines and Water Lines

My fine art practice is informed by a concern for the environment, displacement, exile and the return home. I seek the unbroken relationship between modern culture and ancient lands where tradition and story are used to find meaning from dislocation and separation. I work with vulnerable landscapes and waterways which support birds, plants and animals. The migratory bird imagery in this series of artworks is drawn from zoological specimens including the Anhinga, Barred Owl and Trumpeter Swan which are accompanied by various botanical specimens, moths and snakes.

The archival materials gathered for this series document human forces that have removed or displaced plants and animals to make way for the development of roads, schools and planned communities. The substrate of these original prints includes hand-made pulp papers combined with vintage ledger papers from a roads paving contractor and broken midline handwriting papers from an elementary school. I have also enclosed soil samples, pigment, threads coated in paper pulp and original chromolithograph botanical prints from the American magazine, Vick’s Monthly, published 1880 – 1883.

The technique of screen print relies on pushing fluid ink through a stencil in a flexible screen. In order for the characteristic graphic line of a screen print to be achieved the paper must be smooth and flat. However, in this series of work, collaged layers made from various papers and materials push back against the screen making it impossible to produce an off-contact print. This changing, unreliable surface demands greater physical force through the screen with many passes of ink instead of one. When printing, each pass generates risk and possible failure causes by the distressed surface that demands single-mindedness and care.

Emily Arthur is an American contemporary artist and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2024 Arthur served as the Harvard University, Eleanor M. Garvey Visiting Fellow in Printing & Graphic Arts. Arthur works with scientists, historians and Indigenous scholars to elucidate the craft and knowledge-based disciplines of art and science. Displacement, loss and a concern for the environment are a result of her family heritage. The undocumented, mixed descent of her family offers a multilayered perspective that informs her works on paper, artist books and sculptural work. Arthur received an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and served as a fellow at the Barnes Foundation for Theoretical and Critical Research. Museum permanent collections include the Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery, Harvard University Fine Art Library, Saint Louis Art Museum, Chazen Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Denver Art Museum, Museum of the American West, Autry Center and Crocker Art Museum.