Woman-Made, Nature-Inspired: Marin Emanuel

In honor of Women’s History Month, Great Parks is celebrating eight local woman artists who find creative inspiration from the natural world around them.

Meet Marin Emanuel

Marin Emanuel
Marin Emanuel (provided)

Marin Emanuel is a multi-media artist, muralist and arts educator. She strives to use all recycled materials in her artwork, which she lovingly refers to as “trash art.” She is passionate about making the arts accessible for everyone and encouraging learners of all ages to be resourceful. As a process-oriented artist, she finds inspiration in the chaos and randomness of creation.

The views and opinions expressed in the interview are those of the artist and do not represent the views or positions of Great Parks.

Great Parks: I know you are a multi-media artist. What mediums are you working with right now? 

Marin Emanuel: Multi-media is sort of like an open door for me. I’ve gotten into printmaking. I primarily do painting, but I actually recently gave that up. I just sort of gave all my paints to someone else, and said, “I’m kind of done with this.” My starting point was actually just drawing with markers, getting into pencils and exploring watercolor pencils. The sculptural stuff I got into over the past year. I did a residency, which was one of the starting points of the “trash art” stuff that I was doing. Outside of the sculptural things, I’ve gotten into collage a whole lot recently, which is one of the ways I’ve been tying in the waste material art. I started to realize, I see all these different types of things every single day, like cardboard boxes, little plastic baggies, and things like that. And it has the same textures that I’m looking for in the stores. And I’m like, “Why don’t I just use this?”

GP: What have been the benefits of embracing “trash art”?

ME: Accessibility has been super big. How do you make art out of something that everybody gets in contact with every single day? A lot of people feel like they can’t do [art] because they don’t have contact with the materials. And so, I’ve been trying to find any medium that I can, take the materials and items that I find, and then turn it into something. I’m still sort of playing around with how I could do printmaking with cardboard. Styrofoam was the other option. That was something that I ran into a lot in packaging. So much Styrofoam out there.

I think one of the things that I’m most proud of is something that I had done with a workshop with ArtWorks. We were getting into collaging with the cardboard, and I had everybody make a little bitty piece. And I’ve been putting those pieces together into one bigger piece. And the part that I’m most proud of is that I’ve been able to use bits and materials from past projects and tie them into one thing, which is why I call it “trash art” because it’s not all necessarily trash, but a lot of the thought process is making do with what’s there already and not wanting to go out and get something, which has definitely been a challenge. I actually ended up calling [this art] something like “full transformation trash art” because the part that I feel is coolest about it is that you can’t necessarily tell that these are waste materials. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if we’re not all going out in mass, purchasing all of these different things and we instead just use what’s there, there’s a jumping point. We’re decreasing the amount of things that we need to produce.

GP: When you’re teaching kids, do you incorporate sustainability education into your art lesson? 

ME: Yeah. I am always trying to tie that in. Whatever we’re doing right now has some kind of impact on the world. Where did we get these papers from? What’s happening with our scraps? What’s happening with the marker capsules that we’re using? What’s happening with the water? Where are we getting water from? You know, are we maximizing what we can use these items for? One of the funniest and greatest lessons I was teaching people was that goldfish are actually invasive. You don’t want to put ’em into the water because they can get jumbo! It was one of the most mind-blowing things. They actually came from a different country, so when they are introduced into our waterways, they have no natural predators. So, they just go crazy. And then they’re huge. If you Google the final size of a goldfish … Yeah, incredibly terrifying.

Artwork depicting a butterfly and a flower, by Marin Emanuel
Provided by Marin Emanuel

GP: I did not know that! Why is it important to you to integrate recycling, reusing, and upcycling into your artistic practice?

ME: The first spark came from my parents. We had compost in our household. Always recycling. We had a garden in our backyard and a rain barrel, and we did about as much as my parents could really afford to do. My mom, she comes from the country, like real rural Indiana vibes. She was out there truly farming. She lived in our underground home that was built by her father-in-law. And as a senior in high school, I took up a [role] so that the recycling program at Walnut Hills Highschool didn’t just totally disappear. I was basically taking the recycling out every single day for my entire senior year. Seeing how much [waste] is produced by people just in that one isolated space… it was sort of like the second spark really.

My dad was on the opposite side of the spectrum. He grew up in Michigan in a not-so-affluent area. They had a fruit tree in their backyard though. I grew up hearing stories about, “We literally got to go out and pick the fruit from my tree.” Super cool! I actually did get to visit that spot. It was kind of bizarre really because if you went out into the front, it’s like concrete jungle, and then in the backyard it’s actually a nice fenced-in green space. It’s like, this feels more right!

GP: Do you find inspiration in the randomness of the recycled materials you are finding? 

ME: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot about randomness. And in-the-moment inspiration. I call a lot of what I do “flow consciousness creation”. What could be there in that moment? A million different things. I accept that not every idea is the most extravagant but it’s, it’s still cool, because it’s something else. And that has been a big way for me to stretch imagination, and honestly, lean into some of the stuff that I experienced when I was in kindergarten and preschool. Those are the earliest times of simplicity. Letting the mind go where it wants to. Now that I say that out loud, it’s slightly meditative. I don’t think I’ve actually put those words to my art practice before. You know, accepting what’s there and what you’re thinking of is part of meditation.

GP: So really being flexible with your expectations … ?

ME: Yeah. I’ve had very low expectations for what my art creates, which I’ve actually found to be one of the greatest things for me. If I don’t anticipate it to be anything at the beginning or middle, then the end point is astonishing. It’s like, man, how did I get here?

Marin Emanuel is one of the local artists whose artwork will be on display at Instinct: Woman-Made, Nature-Inspired, a nature-themed art show happening March 31 and April 1, 2023 at Fernbank Park.

Megan Hague
Nature Interpreter, Miami Whitewater Forest