INTERVIEW : EMILY BIXLER OF BOET
Weaver, protectress and snake charmer Emily Bixler makes jewelry for humans, walls and beds under the stagename BOET in Portland, Oregon. We’ve been fascinated and a bit obsessed since we entered her installation at Content 2011 at Ace Hotel Portland — an alchemical brew of painstaking detail and nuance mixed with witchy power and butch materiality. BOET is featured in tomorrow’s pop-up shop Beggar’s Banquet tomorrow, Saturday, at Union/Pine, along with other local artisans and purveyors of vintage goods, supported by Ace.
Emily put down her needles and tiny flyers for a spell to answer a few questions for us.
The mixture of delicacy, brawn and darkness in your pieces reminds me of the work of Pina Bausch — it’s moving on this visceral level. What’s it like working with your materials, and how did you arrive at this strange, magical marriage?
I love this comparison. There are moments of her choreography that haunt me. Characters that, while moving in the most intense, bizarre rhythm both support and challenge each other. It is very much the same with the fiber and metal. Oftentimes they decide the outcome of a piece no matter how much I try to control them. I began using the chain as a sort of accent to the fiberwork but it soon took on this necessary structural element. I have worked for several years in both the knitwear and jewelry design industries and after digesting the possibilities and limitations of both mediums I realized I needed to find a way for them to co-exist.
Your jewelry feels almost like a miniature version of your wall pieces and hangings — “real” art. What’s different about working in different scales — is jewelry the business and are the larger pieces where your spirit’s at?
Yes. It’s funny. In school I used to dream up sculptures from drawing and “mock-ups.” The smaller scale helped me plan for the big work. With BOET it was the opposite. I think of the jewelry as small scale sculpture. As I was developing BOET the shield and chevron shapes that repeat through the work started to have more meaning for me as these protectors or badges. The large work came from similar questions of decoration. If a necklace works by creating a composition, a desirable shape on the body, what happens if that scale changes? What does a bed shield or a wall necklace look like?
That said, I see the jewelry and larger pieces as equally important…different ideas come from different scales and I love that.
It’s the most cliche interview question ever, but I’ve never interviewed anyone who’s made me curious about this — what / who are your influences? Is there direct reference to something or does your work have a level of synesthesia to it —- just creating from shapes, colors, sounds in your mind?
This could go in so many directions. For years I have been inspired by Panamerenko and his bizarre airships. Ann Hamilton comes up quite often as well. Her ability to create such large scale installations while having this immense focus to every small element, every stitch in the fabric - it’s like food for me. Similarly, handwork of the Victorian age never fails to amaze…layers upon layers of an almost sickening attention to detail. These are the roots anyway…a jump off point. From there it is a collection of textures, and tests. There are no direct references — oftentimes a shape just happens before I know it and it starts me off on a whole new path.