emma lloyd

PHOTOS BY ARJUN NARAYEN
STory BY SIMON DE JESUS RODRIGUES


Things are not always as they seem, and Emma Lloyd is okay with that.

Combining contrasting visual elements of sketch and watercolor, her art seeks to challenge the way in which we perceive reality by bringing her version of the weird, the bizarre, and the uniquely idiosyncratic to the surface of our visual experience. 

Her story begins, as all of ours do, in the home. “When I was really young, my mom had an art table for me and my sister. Everything else in the house we had to clean up, but we never had to clean up the art table, so it’s kind of been a continuous thing since I was a baby.” As all children do, she learned by imitation; she copied illustrations from D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, drawn to fantastical realms of humanoid demigods and animalistic creatures of fable. 

We separate things from our conscious experience and our dream experience, but I think that the divisions between those things are blurry.


In the third grade her family relocated to Japan, following her mother—a professor of Japanese culture—on a year-long sabbatical. It was a vibrant Shintoist tradition that furthered an interest in folktales and recurring cross-cultural symbols, and it was Miyazaki films that captured her attention as a child. 

As a young teen, her interest in human and animal forms persisted; duraprints of human skeletons and animal anatomies replaced D’Aulaire’s myths, and the copying continued. An art teacher introduced her to watercolors, complimenting sketching to form the basis media of her works today.

Itching for a change of scenery from her hometown in Wellesley, Massachusetts, she applied to United World College in her junior year and was admitted to the Costa Rica campus. There, these elements coalesced under the guidance of a particularly influential art teacher who actively promoted an intuitive approach to the artistic process. “I’d had this theme of mythology and looking at animals and humans merging, and I was really attracting to absurd, surreal worlds that defy the logic of the day-to-day.” These strange worlds hint at a greater story, like snapshots from a storyboard. While there is no planned narrative to these snapshots, it is not difficult to allow the imagination to craft a narrative about the created world Emma brings to us, and no singular narrative is superior. 

In her collections, we see contrasting spheres merge frequently at the intersection of what Emma refers to as our “real consciousness” and our “dream consciousness.” Animal and human figures are recognizable yet distinctively altered, and the line between the real and the imaginary is blurred both figuratively and literally; faces blend with landscapes, creatures borrow anatomies, and stagnant forms are imbued with a fluid sense of movement, attempting to evoke a magical reality “like what Murakami does in his novels. Or García Márquez, or Cortázar. The divisions between things start to fall away.””

But she is not afraid to admit that her art is a work in progress, a continuous process of challenge and discovery that reflects her intellectual and personal growth. Much of her work is simply “trying to sort through what is going on.” By questioning these boundaries, perhaps we, too, can begin to look for answers.

See more of Emma's work on her site.