Briefly describe the work you do.
The existential plight of the modern worker, whether described by Marx or satirized in Dilbert, permeates the Western collective consciousness. My work aims to explore the alienation of the paper pusher, revealing the absurdity of this struggle through humor and nostalgia.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
As a little kid, my dad ran a small technology company. I remember going into his office and seeing all these big machines and colorful wires everywhere, and that imagery has always been in my head. My family moved around a bit as a result of corporate takeovers and layoffs and restructuring, so the struggle of the modern worker always loomed large in my life. I have a BFA in painting from Washington University in St. Louis, and since graduating have worked in an office during the day and made art in the off hours. My current day job at a
natural history museum and aquarium has influenced my work a lot, and my recent series of prints are all based on actual events in my day job. Whether it’s a giant squid case that’s leaking toxic chemicals or a plumbing crisis in the jellyfish exhibit, there’s always some kind of crazy crisis that calls me away from checking emails and going to meetings like a normal office worker. The absurdity of these events has become a metaphor to me for the greater absurdity of the whole nine-to-five world.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is fairly non-traditional in that I don’t have one set space I use to make art. I work on my laptop at home or the coffee shop sketching and composing. I paint in my living room. I print at the local community college or at a friend’s studio. I have access to a wood shop and work space through my day job, so I end up working all over the place.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Writing about my art is a continuous point of internal contention for me. A picture is worth a thousand words and trying to translate everything I say visually into text (like answering this question!) is never easy. But writing is crucial to my studio practice and helps me crystalize ideas and clarify my vision. I know the process is valuable even when I’ve been staring at my computer for an hour, stymied by writers block.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
My art making schedule varies a lot! I got involved with a printmaking group at the local community college where they have a press and a set schedule, but I also do a lot of work whenever I can. I do a lot of composing and sketching on the computer which is nice because it’s easy to work anytime.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I’ve always been interested in humor and nostalgia and making things in a very touched, handmade and physical way. It’s been just over 5 years since I started really exploring imagery of retro office workers. I started with this kind of imagery as a general trope, but recently my work has become much more autobiographical and inspired by specific events occurring at my day job. I’ve also begun exploring printmaking in the last 2 years which has helped me think more about my making process.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I’m influenced by absurdist office humor like Dilbert, The Office, and Office Space. Mad Men is on the pop-culture-influences list as well. I try to read theory as much as I can; Marx, Weber, Durkheim, de Bouvier, Benjamin and McLuhan have definitely helped shape my world view and artistic vision. Becuase I’m making semi-autobiographical art about work and the workplace, I’d say my coworkers, bosses, vendors, and professional colleagues are all influences.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I currently do exhibit design for a natural history museum and aquarium during the day, and that’s a pretty cool gig. I got to help install a T-Rex skeleton a few years back, I’ve sat in on dolphin necropsies—there’s always something weird and gross and interesting going on, and that keeps things exciting!
Rose Emanuela Briccetti (b. 1985) lives and works in Santa Barbara, CA. She holds a BFA in Painting from Washington University in St. Louis where she received the prestigious Wacks Scholarship in painting. She has exhibited at SOMArts (San Francisco, CA), The Dickinson Museum Center (Dickinson, ND), Gallery M Squared (Houston, TX), and the Des Lee Gallery (St. Louis, MO).
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.