Emmeline Joy Morris: becoming visible

Somewhere in an alternate universe, exists a medieval world of pink and purple grassy fields and swirling skies. Here, enormous mushrooms tower over people, giant fluffy bumble bees too. The landscape is pillowy, the foliage lush, and the rivers are always sparkling. The humans in this world resemble video game characters; night elves dressed in chainmail and suits of silver armor, all riding their horses in harmony. Multidisciplinary artist Emmeline Joy Morris describes her fantasy dreamworld in such a way.

This description isn’t surprising when you look at her body of work. Born and based in Sydney, Australia, Emmeline practices in a multitude of mediums including ceramics, jewelry, textiles, drawing, painting, and performance art. Her ceramic sculpture series Flesh demonstrates this dreamscape best. Surreal, distorted, and whimsical ceramic sculptures of realistic human skin, with mouths and blackened eyeballs that seem to melt off the sides. On some pieces, the skin is pierced with metal jewelry or embellished with armor. Other pieces are shaped into vases or ashtrays or cutlery. Though potentially seen as unsettling to some, the fleshy forms are embedded with absurdity and humor at their core. 

Emmeline finds inspiration through the overstimulation

Emmeline sees herself in the work she creates. Her art stems from her introspective and existential nature. As a young child, she urged to understand who she was, why she was, and all the complexities of this so-called “life”. Surrounded by people who didn’t question the same, she felt emotionally isolated and dissociative for much of her adolescence. 

The world can be a jarring and overstimulating place to Emmeline. There’s the daily pressures of life, the pressure of social conformity, too many people, too many noises; and they’re all happening at once. The chaos of it all can cause her to panic. “I can still enjoy busy environments, but sometimes the situation is wrong,” she says. “I feel like a glass of water that’s been filled to the top too much, and then I spill and everything’s fucked.”

ASD and clarity

It wasn’t until a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder gave her more clarity into why she felt the way she did. This diagnosis propelled her to use art as a means to understand herself and to combat the confusion she experiences from the world.

images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by artist

Emmeline’s art is a form of escapism. Heavily influenced by her fascination with video games like League of Legends, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft, medieval societies, and astrology, she creates art reflective of the fantasy world of her mind. Her melting ceramic forms show identity crisis and our inability to make sense of what exactly we are. Are we our bodies? Our thoughts? Disabilities? Consciousness? Potentially heavy topics, they’re approached with a light heart. And this shows in her performance piece Medicate where she can be seen rocking comically large antidepressant pills like a newborn baby. It reminds us, in the end, to have a sense of humor about it all.

The art makes itself

Emmeline’s creative process is fluid and freeing. She starts with a vision and a rough basic sketch, but she has learned not to put too much pressure on the final outcome. Her sculpting process includes letting the clay take its own reins, drooping and folding in its natural way. “The art makes itself.”  However, it’s the tedious sculpting and glazing process that show her unique attention to detail and craft. And at the end of the day, what makes her pieces beautiful to look at, an important part of art making to Emmeline. “I just like pretty things”, she states. (She is a Libra after all).

With her art, Emmeline hopes to promote visibility in all of its forms. She’s finally shining a spotlight on herself after suppressing her own emotions for so long. But in addition to this expression, she wants to emphasize visibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder, especially in girls where it’s not taken as seriously. Her art can serve as representation to all those with mental health struggles that are misunderstood by the rigid confines of “identity” as we know it.

written by Neena Bui 

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