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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Because I Am Flesh

Artist: Emily Strong
Dates: March 7 – April 5
Opening Reception – March 7, 6 to 8 p.m.

Emily strong in front of her art work

Artist Bio

Emily Strong is a figurative oil painter based in eastern Pennsylvania. Strong was born in Allentown in 1992 and received her undergraduate degrees in studio art and psychology with a minor in sociology from Moravian University in 2015. Her study of psychology and sociology has greatly influenced the conceptual and formal aspects of her work.

Strong works primarily in oil on canvas, creating realistic, intimate depictions of figures and spaces that explore the many complexities of relationships with self, other and environment, as well as existence, isolation and identity.

Strong’s work has been displayed in local, regional and online exhibitions as well as various publications. Strong’s work has been displayed by the galleries of colleges and universities, including Lehigh University, Lafayette College, Muhlenberg College, Cedar Crest College, Miami University and Moravian University. She has given visiting artist lectures at Muhlenberg College, Moravian University, Lafayette College, Lehigh Carbon Community College and The Baum School of Art. Her work is in many notable private collections as well as the Trotsky Family Collection of Moravian University’s Payne Gallery.

In addition to her personal studio practice, Strong has worked in the arts as a freelance mural artist, studio assistant to multiple artists, a gallery professional at various institutions, artist’s model, and in 2020, co-founded the online gallery Manifold Global.

Painting of hands and arms

Artist Statement

My figurative landscapes invite contemplation of physicality through meticulously painted fleshy compositions. I create raw, intimate spaces that explore the many complexities of physical relationships; with the self and with others. This series is an inclusive celebration of humanity and form.

The compositions do not shy away from what might be considered “flaws”: scars, stretchmarks, rolls, or folds; rather it lingers on them, gently guiding the viewer through the texture and topography of the forms. By celebrating the beauty of these attributes, I hope to show that these are not features to be ashamed of or disturbed by, but treasured as part of our unique histories. By focusing on these vulnerable moments and not including any other objects, environment, or personal identifiers, it invites the viewer to consider the body exclusively within its own context.

The tangled limbs and corpulent hills create a bewildering landscape, challenging the viewer to decipher how many figures are present, what parts of the figures they are seeing, and what genders may be represented. This ambiguity allows my work to raise the question: what stereotypes and biases do we, consciously or subconsciously, bring to viewing a figurative work of art? By using tightly cropped compositions, it limits the opportunity to project certain learned assumptions about the subject based on their biological sex or other features that would lead to quick stereotyping. It frees the subjects from whatever roles they may be put into based on perceived feminine or masculine traits, age, ability, nationality, etc. The body is free to be viewed without being hastily categorized and dismissed, which invites a more nuanced exploration of the subject.

This series has evolved to include another layer of connection between viewer and subject. Each new painting has a written companion; a transcript of an interview conducted with the subjects of these paintings. The interviews give the models a voice in the process and the platform to express their own experiences with their body and how society and the people they know challenge or support the way they physically exist in the world. The subjects are kept anonymous, but their words hold the power to relate with viewers who may have experienced the same thing or give insight to those who may have previously considered themselves unimaginably different from the speaker.