Emily Ritz is a multimedia artist and a musician whose art reflects the subconscious realm of her dreams. Hyper-detailed, Ritz’s work melds natural textures with feminine figures that blur the line between body and earth. “I have always been attracted to the tiny textures and fractals that make up the natural world. Shapes, curves, and colors really speak to me, and I’ve found ways of working that mimic these organic forms.”
Until recently, Ritz worked primarily with watercolor and pen on paper. Her process included wetting the paper and then dripping paint to spread in an unpredictable fashion. Once dry, she’d fill in the colors with her patterns, almost like a backward coloring book, a process she finds meditative and satisfying. With ceramics, Ritz creates three-dimensional versions of patterns, drawing one shape at a time, repeating, and sculpting tiny forms by hand, resulting in a textural object evoking coral reefs. Lately, she’s begun working with acrylic on wood panels, which requires more thought and layering to get the desired effect.
“It feels fun to engage my mind more in the process and explore what feels like infinite possibilities. My new series, ‘Flora as Fauna,’ is almost a plant study where I’m beginning to discover what I can do in this new world. Each painting takes anywhere from 30 to upward of 150 hours to complete, depending on the size and level of detail,” Ritz says.
Through a process of pattern repetition and by letting her mediums guide her, she achieves a seductive collaboration. “I am a very feminine and sensuous being and when I made the choice to analyze less and create from a place of play and curiosity, all of that naturally came through,” she adds.
Inspired by her grandmother, Betty LaCasse, internationally renowned for her work in textiles, Ritz’s work contains themes of self-care. Having contracted Lyme disease, Ritz has struggled with arthritis and autoimmune disease, which have limited her physical mobility throughout her lifetime. Music and art help her escape the limitations of her body, and she aims to turn her struggles into expression with a unique artistic style.
Themes of fertility are evident in Ritz’s work. About this regenerative aspect of nature, she says, “The fecundity of the plant world truly astounds me. I absorb it abstractly rather than studying it closely. The resilience and abundance of nature gives me comfort to know it will outlive us. I try to mirror nature in my art practice letting one idea lead me to the next without too much planning. Trusting my hand and trusting the flow, my work changes quickest when I switch to a new medium. I’m fortunate to always feel ready to burst creating an endlessly fertile, ever evolving process of creation.”
Integral to her work is the human figure. “I began doing self-portraits to heal my relationship with my body,” Ritz says. “I never love my shape more than on paper. The more I paint myself the more I enjoy my body in all of its dimensions. I love painting my form as a way to see myself as healed and a part of the Earth. The human form is relatable to everyone and can bring people deeper into my world.”
Ritz is also an accomplished musician and has toured for over a decade. Her second album, In Love Alone, was released in 2021. Her music explores the duality of existence, playing loneliness against catharsis, longing against healing, and solitude against love. “My art and music practices serve very different and necessary purposes for me,” Ritz says. “Writing and performing offer bursts of catharsis while painting and sculpting are more of a daily meditation. Both reference nature and my body. Switching between art forms is easier on my body and helps me move through the emotional experience of chronic pain more fluidly. While focusing on one modality, the other is naturally recharging. This way I never run out of creative juice.”
“Flora as Fauna,” Ritz’s first solo show, will be on view at D’Arcy Simpson Art Works in Hudson August 6-September 10.