Emily Rapoport is a contemporary mixed media artist who lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. Originally from Williamsburg, Virginia, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Oberlin College in Ohio. Her clever and distinctive whimsical style emanates from the dark lens of someone trained as a writer, who has been influenced by multiple literary and artistic sources.
Encouraged from a young age by her parents, Rapoport says, “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw.” In her youth, she was inspired by the stories and pictures in children’s books by writers Lewis Carroll, and Roald Dahl, and illustrators Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak. She was particularly impressed by the dark moral messages in historic European fairy tales such as Grimm’s.
Throughout her life, Rapoport has also enjoyed the opportunity to travel and visit museums in Europe, where she has been deeply affected by the work of the early 20th-century artist Marc Chagall, whose paintings synthesize modern art with his roots in Russian folk culture. From these various influences, Rapoport has developed her own unique visual approach and style.
The delight in Rapoport’s work is the intricacy of her application. Pattern layered upon pattern joyously washes across open spaces or decorates the stylized characters of her narratives. Her intuitive compositions offer glimpses into an intimate realm which is expressed through a personal language of symbols and metaphors. An innate sense of rhythm emerges as trees, animals, and people all share similar design elements. Her work invites us to view the world as a series of magical little tableaus, where her various motifs signify and allude to diverse cultural influences gathered from the folk arts of India, Spain and Eastern Europe. Her inclusive vision seems to be in harmony with the words of Chagall, who spoke about the universal message in his nostalgic paintings of Jewish folk culture from his boyhood village of Vitebsk. He stated that his work was “not the dream of one people, but of all humanity.”
As Rapoport explains, “An important purpose in my work is to create a fantastical world that balances childlike naiveté with a darker truth. My content speaks not only to whimsy and romance but perhaps to the fear and vulnerability we all experience in life, and like a fairy tale, may hint at the resilience of the human spirit.”