Emily Orzech (US) Screenprinting a crisis, 2017-2020

The series of prints, Family History, was catalyzed by my late partner’s illness. I am interested in the liminal spaces of illness and caregiving. There are gaps and errors in both genetic material- resulting in the proliferation of cells- and in my memory of that time. The title of the print Susceptible Proteins, refers to the way genetic cancer syndromes such as BRCA produce malfunctioning proteins which then fail to correctly repair damaged cells, resulting in a cascade of errors. The last work in this sequence, Packing the House, recalls the process of sorting through and moving someone’s belongings after they are gone. The gap is in the person’s absence, but also the way that the memory itself becomes distorted, fabricated out of visual fragments. Some colors and textures are heightened, some sections are elided.

I use a screenprint technique that allows me to layer and then selectively sand away the ink, revealing the layers below. In this way I am able to work using both additive and subtractive methods, which is unusual for the medium. The layering collapses the passage of time and mimics the simultaneous clarity and intangibility of memories.

When Mind the Gap transformed into an online show because of Covid-19, I revisited a number of works in the series. Many, such as Waiting for a Bed and Decisions are about the gaps in the US healthcare system, that were large even before Covid-19. Waiting for a Bed is a memory of spending the night in the ER while waiting for a bed upstairs. The text of Decisions is a pros and cons list for navigating healthcare that was out of network for insurance and taking leave without pay. At the same time, there is an unimaginable difference between those memories and the current moment, with the gaps and failures of the system becoming further magnified. Millions have lost insurance with their jobs, and racism has led to massive inequities in Covid outcomes.

Emily Orzech

Emily Orzech is a visual artist working with screenprint and lithography. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and went on to receive a Fulbright Grant at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. Currently based in Pennsylvania (USA), she is an associate professor at Muhlenberg College where she teaches digital media and printmaking.

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