Through the looking glass with Astoria artist Emily Dyrek
Capturing the world in a very special way with her canvas and camera.
A rising star on the NYC art scene, Emily Dyrek is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses several mediums to create her visual magic. Emily's enchanting toolbox includes a variety of colorful paints, a point-and-shoot camera, ceramics as well as textiles and multimedia collages.
You will absolutely love seeing the world through Emily's camera lens and the scenes she paints on canvas. They are not only eye-opening but thought-provoking, as well.
Emily's brush and palette evoke a wide range of positive emotions in those who view her art. Her work will definitely uplift your spirits. But, there's a very intriguing edge and eccentricity to many of Emily's paintings, as well. You'll not be bored, that's for certain.
The visual arts is something that Emily has gravitated to ever since she was quite young. Painting since 7th grade, Emily also got interested in taking photographs when she was in middle school back home in Indiana.
As a painter, one of Emily's favorite themes is exploring the connection between self-identity, the home, and childhood.
During our virtual chat, Aplez.com asked our artist in the spotlight to delve further into this rather interesting theme. Emily was more than happy to oblige.
"For the past few years, with my paintings and mixed media work, my favorite subjects are domestic spaces like the home, memory objects and these cute little surreal creatures that I am now starting to incorporate into some of my art. I am also newly interested in taking real landscapes or images of real people and using a special paint blend that I create to make them seem tactile and playful. "
Continuing on, Emily explained that... "I connect my self-identity and my upbringing through the home, meaning exploring artistic places, spaces, objects and memories with loved ones that translate into who you are or will be as you age into an adult. "
On the homepage of Emily's website is a wonderful painting that depicts a cozy bedroom in her grandmother's house, a place that holds some very dear memories for the artist. Emily spent a great deal of quality time there while growing up.
Emily's paintings are filled with what she refers to as "memory objects ". These objects can be anything from a dollhouse to different types of furniture. They are triggers, so to speak, that conjure up memories of her childhood.
"Those who are viewing my paintings may not have these EXACT objects or experiences in their life. But I want the viewers as they look at my art to feel a sense of connection through the various memory objects depicted in the scene. "
Emily's style as an artist has evolved over the years in a very natural way. She has always been true to herself and never sought to emulate other painters, even those who she admired.
That's why, even though each piece of art has its own, unique personality, there's no question that Emily Dyrek is the artist behind the creation. For someone so young to have already achieved a "signature" style for her art is kind of amazing!
As a photographer, Emily's specialty is urban landscapes. While going about her day, Emily usually has a camera with her enabling her to capture different scenes spontaneously.
"What attracts me to urban landscapes are shadows, neon lights, older brick buildings and structures; just the overall spectrum of a typical NYC street. I prefer taking nighttime images or when the sun is at golden or blue hours. I feel that it is during these times of day when I can really amplify certain aspects in the image that would be more difficult in, say, the late morning hours. I totally enjoy making my images have this uncanny or mysterious feeling. But I also enjoy adding a dash of the liveliness that the city brings. "
A painting by Emily or one of her urban landscape images would totally enhance the ambiance and change the dynamic of your living room or office.
Always seeking to expand her horizons and photography portfolio, Emily is now open to accepting commissions for engagement photos, family portraits and the like. Friendly and totally real, Emily has a knack for making people feel comfortable. And, the more relaxed the subject is, the better the photo will turn out.
Astoria is, as we are all aware, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. Young creatives move here from all over the country and the world to realize their dreams.
Emily's journey began in the quaint, Norman Rockwell-like town of Porter, Indiana, which is about a five-minute drive from Indiana Dunes National Park. This was followed by a move to Westville, which was even further out in the country.
Our artist had always dreamed of one day moving to Chicago and teaching art to children. But Emily's application to join Americorps eventually led her to the Big Apple.
In the Spring of 2019, Emily earned undergraduate degrees in both K-12 secondary visual arts education and a bachelor of fine arts from Indiana University West.
And, just a few months later, Emily found herself teaching in NYC!
As you might expect, Emily is a huge advocate of art being an important part of a school's overall curriculum. The influence that art classes have to help expand a child's imagination and instill self-confidence is immeasurable.
Emily is proud to play a part in helping to shape her students' lives. Even if they don't become artists on a professional basis; it can become a hobby. In any event, that love of art will stay with the child forever and will give them an untold pleasure as they discover new artists and classical "old" masters.
"My first job upon moving to New York City was being a student success coach through the education non-profit City Year. We worked closely with the students, but we also had the opportunity to help with City Year's Civic Engagement Team. Their mission is to beautify the city's public schools by adding murals around the hallways ."
Emily was chosen to participate in and lend her talents to the Day of Service event that takes place on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Holiday.
But we'll let the artist in question pick up the story from here.
"I submitted a mural design and it was approved and then painted at an elementary school in the Bronx. The mural was sketched onto the wall, color-coded and the volunteers filled in the different colors like a puzzle. They followed my design on a printout. Once the volunteer's time was up, I put the finishing touches on the mural and added some details."
Emily was also honored to be a participant in the Neighborhood Curbside Canvas Project which helped restaurants attract attention and customers during Covid-19. Emily found out about this wonderful endeavor from other artists who were participating with her in a group gallery show at the One Art Space Gallery in Tribeca.
By the way, this show was curated by noted Astoria-based artist Sophocles Plokamakis and his wife Thais under the aegis of their company Start Shows.
The artists who participated in the Neighborhood Curbside Canvas Project were assigned a restaurant in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. This was when outdoor dining spaces were popping up everywhere. But many times, these spaces were very basic, plain structures.
The hope was that painting eye-catching designs and color schemes on the walls of these structures; would attract new customers from those walking or driving by. One could say that these restaurateurs used art as a form of advertising.
"The owner of the restaurant that I painted at, The Square Diner, let myself and the other mural artists paint what we thought would be best in the section of the wall or space that we were assigned to. I picked really bright colors and a fun, swirly, playful design; one that would stick in the memory of passersby."
Needless to say; Emily is a big proponent of public art projects such as her efforts to beautify our schools as well as the Curbside Canvas Project.
"Public art, to me, means art that is available to be seen to anyone in the public," explained Emily. " It does not involve paying admissions or going to specific institutions. In other words, it is a way to bring joy to more places such as parks, different buildings, just about anywhere."
Emily's first landing spot upon arriving in the Big Apple was an apartment in East Harlem, moving in with co-workers.
"When that job ended, " Emily told Aplez.com " I moved to Astoria specifically because I found out that my next teaching assignment would be in Queens. I was lucky enough to find a room available in a cute home here when I was searching for a new place to live."
Always discovering new things to like about her adopted nabe, Emily enjoys shopping at the various shops and boutiques such as Broadway Thrift as well as the coffee at OK Cafe and the food at Neptune Diner.
Currently teaching art at a Department of Education elementary school in the Bronx, Emily wants her students to understand that... "In some ways, we are ALL artists. That there is no one correct answer as to what is art. Our brains process and see things differently and that is why all of our art is not the same. In my classes, I am focusing on representation, diversity and social and emotional learning. This touches more into the student's personal lives and also helps them make visuals that connect to subject matters they care about."
We could have chatted with Emily for another hour, at least. But, as the saying goes, all good things eventually must come to an end. However; prior to winding up our conversation, Aplez.com asked Emily what advice she would give to a young person who feels that they have a creative spark in them, but are afraid of failure or being judged by their peers.
Our artist was thoughtful before answering.
"My advice would be to just start. Don't worry about other artists or compare yourself to them. Once you get started, you will become more familiar with the material as you learn different tricks and methods as you grow in your process. Practice. The more you draw and paint, the more you will grow. But be patient with yourself. move at your own pace. Know that there is not a right or a wrong answer to being an artist. Go out, create and enjoy yourself."
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