Spotlight: Emi Brady

A Q&A with Denver printmaker Emi Brady.

Photo by Jon Rose

The walls of Emi Brady’s studio are lined with linocut prints portraying dark, vibrant scenes of animals and nature, each line and shape delicately hand-carved by Brady. It’s a time-consuming process: It took Brady 16 months to complete her most recent project, creating her own set of 78 linocut tarot cards, which she says act as a “receptor for the universe’s messages to come through.” Brady, who says she knew she was destined to make art ever since she was first able to hold a pencil, earned her BFA in printmaking at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2007 and her MFA in printmaking at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2011.

What inspired you to make your own deck of tarot cards?
“It was the winter solstice of 2016. I woke up to the sound of red-tailed hawks and knew that if something happened to me that day, I needed to be receptive to it. After dinner, I got out of my car and felt something graze the top of my head. It was a great horned owl. I sat outside and called back and forth with it for a while and said, ‘Okay, fine. I’ll do it. I’ll make a tarot deck.’ The universe was telling me that this is what I was supposed to be doing.”

What inspires you to make art?
“Being out in the middle of nowhere. I’m a lone wolf when it comes to making art. My work is about nature; it’s about the voices the animals and plants have, and it’s a lot easier to hear those voices out in the woods. My mom grew up in south-central Mississippi on 50 acres in the middle of nowhere. I spent a month out there while working on this deck, and it was so inspiring to wake up totally alone and have these conversations with someone other than humans.”

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Why did you move to Denver, and how is the art scene here different from that of the East Coast?
“I actually first came to Denver around 1999 and knew that I would end up out here. I knew that my people were here. I lived on the East Coast for 10 years and was miserable. I couldn’t function; I was paralyzed. The art scene here is less pretentious and a little less developed than on the East Coast, but in the last five years, it feels more accessible, which I like, because artists give a voice to something that many people don’t know they have inside them.”

What’s up next?
“I don’t know. There is this idea that you have to be constantly making art. Some people are prolific and never stop, but that’s not how I work. If I’m not feeling it, I will work on other things. The time artists spend letting the fields lie fallow is just as important as the time they spend making art.”