Emily Jan creates intricately crafted, hyper-realistic installations of found objects inhabited by both handmade and found flora and fauna. Her primary materials are wool, reed, cloth, silicone, and resin. These environments, like enterable museum dioramas, mix elements of high culture with low culture, science with mythology, and history with current affairs. The creatures, wondrous and monstrous by turns, feel real but are entirely handmade. They are not taxidermy but are emotionally believable to the point where they are often mistaken as such.
As a writer and illustrator, Jan creates artist’s books that amalgamate the lived research of a semi-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. Her subject matter ranges in scale from the vast landscapes of the Alaska Range to the minute details of the museum specimen.
In this age of mass extinctions and climate change, 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 both sculptural and literary seeks to transport some of that distant experience to the viewer – 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.