Emily Jan creates intricately crafted installations of hand-made flora and fauna combined with found objects, mixing elements of high culture with low culture, science with mythology, and history with current affairs. Her creatures, wondrous and monstrous by turns, feel real but are entirely handmade. As a writer and illustrator, Jan creates artist’s books that amalgamate the lived research of as emi-nomadic life into works that engage broader concepts such as the circularity of time, the richness of biological and cultural diversity, and the finitude of the planet. As a wanderer, naturalist, and collector of objects and stories, she is guided in her work by the spirit of kinship and exploration.
Her oeuvre functions like the Wunderkammern of old: a collection of oddities and marvels that beckons the viewer to reconsider their relationship to nature and to culture. In this age of ecological and social precarity, the importance of being able to envision places we may never personally see, to hold space for them in our minds and in our hearts, is ever greater. To this end, the work seeks to stretch the boundaries of our collective imaginings in order to encompass the unseen, to learn to love the unknown as well as the familiar, and ultimately to strive to weave all these strands into a larger narrative about what it means to be a human living in a world roiling with turmoil and catastrophe but yet which is still mysterious and beautiful.
EMILY JAN (b. 1977, Los Angeles, USA) is Chinese-American artist and writer who currently lives and works in Edmonton, Alberta (prior to which she worked in Montreal, QC, for adecade). Her semi-nomadic adult life has taken her from the San Francisco Bay Area to the desert Southwest of Utah, to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Recent exhibitions include Wild at the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto (2019), Castaways at the Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature, Victoria (2020). Solo exhibitions include The World is Bound by Secret Knots, Before the Fall, and After the Hunt, at Art Mûr in Montreal (2020), and various artist run centres across Canada (2014–2019). Past residencies include Union House Arts, NL (2019), Artscape Gibraltar Point (2018), the Elsewhere Museum (2017), and Denali National Park (2016). Jan was awarded the Excellence in Fibers Award in 2017, and she won the People’s Choice Award at the Fiberarts International Triennale 2016. She has written and illustrated two books: still life (2014) and A Denali Book of Hours (2017), and her third, The Glory of the Seas: A Shell Collector’s Journey (collaboration with Stephen H. Kawai) is forthcoming.