Human (or mammal) nature, that is, and for a change as contrary to my previous one. It is of this nebulous subject, the New York based artist Emily Roz assiduously explores and expands her body of work.  Evident in her process, application and execution, the boundary within safety is broken through by violence and stoic exemplary of cocks and chimps (to name a few animals among many others) of which the savage nature enforced actions bear striking similarities to us humans.  One of the interesting aspects of her work is this tension there lies in between the quiet nature that is likely to be associated with romance or reverie in contrast with the violent nature that perhaps lies within our own natural instinct for destruction and conquest.  

Squeeze It In, 2012
graphite on paper, 14" x 11"
Image courtesy the artist 

Even though, I have known Emily for quite some time now, but it was on this past Sunday studio visit that I noticed again how her smile was contagious and heart-warming. We found ourselves individually and mutually lost in our conversations that covered various topics from Werner Herzog to Flannery O'Connor to "Lord Of the Flies" to her son Felix and summer camp… however the private must and shall remain private.

Ivy, Lone Pine Road, 2012
oil on wood panel, 20" x 16"
Image courtesy the artist 

Gazelle With Poppies, 2008
colored pencil on paper, 22" x 30"
private collection
Image courtesy the artist 
For many years, Emily has worked mostly in the discipline of drawing and painting. Her recent works oscillate from the beautiful to the grotesque, from the serious to the humorous absurdity of life and existence. Sexuality is parodied to the violent conquest rather than saccharine romance and maudlin gestures of longing, since her subjects simply just go for the kill until death do them apart. But here is as well something pardonable in this seemingly merciless killing, for it is in our nature (humans and mammals alike) and it exists in every society and in every mind of the individual at one time or another (try to be honest with yourself now). What I mean is that life is a constant battle and we must be prepared to step into the armor and be ready to defend and preserve ourselves and of what might be valuable to us. This might sound nihilistic, but to me, we must learn to accept the reality of life and not always try to cover it up with pseudo sympathy and embrace one-hundred percent-ly the abstract idea of an utopian existence- for it is only sound in theory.

Perhaps, it would be through the acceptance of our indomitable nature, we learn to control the violent impulse of which that might lead to dire consequences and gain a genuine sense of sympathy for the world in which we as individuals are not always the center.

Consolation Prize, Having Love, 2012
oil on wood panel, 12" x 9"
Image courtesy the artist 

Hand Branch, JS, 1, 2012
graphite on paper, 11" x 14"
Image courtesy the artist 
From talking to Emily, the meticulous drawings were not the most difficult part to tackle but the actual realization of the ideas of which form the core of her work. She is most interested in the dichotomy between the outward serene sense of beauty in nature and the inward violent struggle to survive. In her works, I found the amount of details applied must have been quite challenging from a technical standpoint, however as I was looking so carefully as to study every line and dot of the drawings she casually said: "oh, that's actually me loosening up there…"

In the works shown below, the violent intensity is acutely present in the stoic nature of these animals' desire to survive and procreate; as they must choose to become the prey before falling into victim in the midst of a battle of the fittest.

On sexuality, Emily gave me a rather amusing story of a male moose; as he smelled the scent of an attractive female moose from across a river, the male moose without any conscious precaution jumped into the river in hope to get to the female.  Unfortunately, in the heat of desire, he had underestimated the strong current and depth of the water, thus felt to his death before getting to the object of his desire.

Gamecock, 1, 2012
graphite on paper, 18" x 14"
Image courtesy the artist 

Yet to be named piece;
I took this (not so good) documentation of a piece Emily was working on in her studio
Image courtesy the artist 
Photo: I took this
Another story she told me while I studied at the details of this image depicting a cock fight; and from a book she has been recently reading on the business of cock-fighting. In which, the author described the process of training his warriors that one of the things he did was to cut off both of its feet just to see what would happen. To the owner's surprise, the cock kept fighting and never showed any signs of retreat or defeat. That story nearly brought tears to my eyes, for though its our nature to kill for survival but more poignantly was this unrelenting desire to be beat the odds and to come out in the final as a victor.

Emily Roz is currently represented by the Front Room and has three pieces of her work currently on view until 15 July.


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