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Exploring Dimensionality: Emily Eisenhart Takes Her Work Off the Walls in New Experiential Exhibit 

We recently caught up with this local artist to discuss the new mediums and processes behind her latest body of work, "Vivid Terrain"


We all know and love Emily Eisenhart for her vibrant murals around Austin, which pay homage to the delicate harmony between the natural and constructed worlds. In her latest body of work, opening February 22 at Preacher Gallery, Emily showcases her imaginative style through expressive, color-soaked landscapes and dimensional sculpture. Drawing inspiration from the fleeting interplay of light and shadow, the rich biodiversity of nature, and the tangible joy of making, Vivid Terrain is part gallery and part experiential exhibit. 

We sat down with Emily to learn about her latest work, which you can see for yourself at the Artist Talk on March 1 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. RSVP here.

Emily in front of one of her colorful murals (photo by Alex Roszko)

The concepts behind the artwork in Vivid Terrain have emerged from years of research, documentation, and creative exploration, with a significant portion of my creative energy invested throughout this past year.

The title, Vivid Terrain, was chosen because the work is a testament to the vitality I feel when immersed in nature. In each piece, you will discover the textures and hues of the environments I’ve explored through all my travels and creative adventures.

The title symbolizes a chapter of transition and growth for me as an artist, as I’ve now ventured into fresh creative terrain by embracing new mediums and processes. With this show, I am thrilled to debut my first collection of sculpture, realizing a long-held vision of adding dimensionality to my signature bold shapes. These carefully crafted sculptures play with light, casting compelling shadows that evolve throughout the day. With Vivid Terrain, I am inviting the audience to join me in exploring the rich tapestry of nature and find joy in navigating their own creative terrain.

How is it different from what you’ve done in the past? 

Murals have been an important part of my artistic identity. Since I usually work on large-scale pieces throughout the city, I rarely have the opportunity to present such a considerable collection in one place. 

The most significant deviation from my past work is the introduction of dimensionality to my art. For the first time, I am unveiling a collection of sculptures that adds a tactile and three-dimensional element to the shapes and patterns people are already familiar with in my paintings and murals. Vivid Terrain offers a more nuanced and personal exploration of the textures, hues, and forms that inspire me.

Emily working with Nick Woodall to bring her 3D visions to life

Were there any significant challenges and/or high points of the process? 

I worked closely with a talented local fabricator and artist, Nick Woodall, from Spun Gold Mfg, for the sculpture series. The partnership has been integral to developing new work for this show and a highlight of my career. Nick has helped realize my vision for my two-dimensional work jumping off the wall, scaling, and taking shape in large forms that can be experienced 360 degrees. 

Given my background in design and branding, I’m accustomed to collaborating with others in conceptualizing work. However, this partnership involved collaborating on the fabrication of my pieces. The partnership necessitated a shift in how I communicate my ideas, learning to articulate them in novel ways — relying on sketches, paper mock-ups, and rendered prototypes. Nick’s expertise pushed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the intricacies of working with a material like steel. Undoubtedly, the two-way exchange has provided a fresh perspective on my artistic practice and I look forward to what’s ahead. 

How do you stay inspired to keep making new art in your style but with different themes and mediums? 

My process is experimental and iterative. You’ll notice recurring shapes and patterns in my work because I tend to preserve everything, knowing it may serve a later purpose — from old collage cutouts to dried paint spills. It’s fascinating how I can revisit something I experimented with a year ago and see something entirely new today. In fact, one of the largest paintings in this show has a composition inspired by a dried, colorful paint palette that was cut up into small pieces, reoriented to play with depth and shadow, and then sketched only to transform later into a painting. 

To foster recurring shifts in my artistic perspective, I spend a lot of time outdoors, immersing myself in nature, where I am most happy. It is full of color, shadows, patterns, textures, and ephemeral experiences like sudden rain, a distant bird call, or fluttering leaves in the wind. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and from a young age, I learned to observe the cadence of tides, the patterns of the sand created by receding ocean water, or the forms of driftwood smoothed by years in the water. I get my keen sense of observation from my father, a nature enthusiast, and my imagination and admiration for colors from my mother, a talented artist. The ever-changing colors and patterns I observe in nature become a wellspring of inspiration, allowing me to reinterpret familiar elements in my art constantly. 

I have over 100,000 photos on my phone, many of which are codified in folders with titles like “Nature studies,” “Colors of sunsets,” and “Shadows.” Beauty and art are in so much of our everyday lives. In fact, my particular interest in shadows came not only from a fascination with the movement of the sun and seeing nature shadows while on hikes — like the silhouette of the tree canopy above — but also from studying my mural sites at different times of the day. 

A sneak peek of what you’ll find at the upcoming Preacher exhibit

What are you most proud of when it comes to Vivid Terrain?

I am proud of the amount of exploration I have done for this show. It has stretched me physically, emotionally, and creatively in unexpected ways. Experimental at my core, I enjoy taking risks, including this significant creative leap of delving into sculpture. I am also proud of the community of Austin creatives that rallied around me throughout this process. The assistance from fellow creatives has played a pivotal role in pulling together Vivid Terrain.

Is there anything else you’d like the Austin community to know about the show or what’s coming for 2024? 

I have fallen in love with sculpture and working in the built form. I intend to collaborate with more architects (especially landscape architects), interior designers, real estate developers, and civic entities on projects this coming year to continue exploring this facet of my practice at the scale of urban spaces. I have plans for large, immersive public sculpture living in plazas, parks, and playgrounds. I’m keen to connect with those in Austin looking to bring vibrant, tactile work to their spaces.