Emma Bagley, a tattoo artist apprentice, is Atwater Village's hidden and talented gem. We met her when she was still working at Kaldi Coffee. It wasn't long until her striking appearance and great sense of humor caught wind as "the new girl in town". She displayed a coy and friendly demeanor, while her many tattoos seemed to show a mysterious and mischevious side of her. Eventually, it came time to ask her if she would sit in to do an Artist Portrait and Interview with us (Masculine de La FEMME Portraits of Emma Bagley). We found some fascinating facts.
The interview below shares some interesting and transparent insights on Santa Fe's art culture, the importance of receiving a degree in Women's Gender Studies while living in Portland, her appreciation to Religion and Spirituality, and what Feminism means to her.
Interviewed by Ariana Coyle and Monica Reyes
MDLF : What is your earliest memory?
Emma : My earliest memory I was in my crib. I was woken up by my brother's friends that had just arrived for his birthday party. He’s four years older than I am. I remember waking up and looking out of the crib and out of the bedroom door into the hallway and pandemonium of a bunch of kids running around.
MDLF : Where are you from?
Emma : I grew up in Santa Fe.
MDLF : How did you like growing up surrounded by a desert?
Emma : I loved it. I still feel so connected to that land.
MDLF : Why?
Emma : The way that Santa Fe is nestled in its landscape, it’s up on the foot of these mountains, and you can just see for 100s of miles, watch the desert storms roll out. There is something about looking out and being able to contextualize myself in where I am. It’s calming. I’m appreciative of LA in that way too. I recently spend some time in Santa Fe by myself. I felt a powerful sense of community there that I have seldom felt anywhere else.
MDLF : Does art run in your family?
Emma : My whole family are musicians. None of them are visual artists.
MDLF : How did you first starting getting into art?
Emma : I just couldn’t stop. I just started when I was a little kid.
MDLF : Was there a specific artist influence that led you to visual art?
Emma : Yeah. Bob Ross.
MDLF : (Laughing) “Really?
Emma : (Laughing) He’s so calming. I was a very quiet kid so this was an excuse to be by myself and not have to play with other kids. Which I think it still sort of true. I’m still just playing with ink, pen, and paper.
MDLF : Was your family really supportive of you chasing a path of art?
Emma : Yeah, totally. I think they didn’t understand it, but they didn’t try to keep me from it.
MDLF : Talk about your feminist awakening.
Emma : It was in college while taking my first gender studies class. During that time, I was in an abusive relationship and using a lot of drugs. I didn’t have much self-worth and that propelled me to stop making art entirely. Once I began reading about [those relationships] in my studies, I realized that it was a systemic, societal problem that women have been dealing with for centuries, I was able to be myself again. I stopped using drugs, started drawing again, ended that relationship. It was an awakening.
MDLF : Did your art change after that class?
Emma : I began making a lot of abstract, op art. I was drawing very detailed pattern work. It became more of a meditation, a process of silence and introspective rather than creating a piece to be looked at by anybody else.
MDLF : What artistic influences did you look towards?
Emma : I was very drawn to textile work like Pennsylvanian Dutch Quilts, which make sense because it seems to be an inherently feminine art form, so I think there was a very gentle touch. I was very drawn to that. I was sewing a lot too. I don’t sew as much now. I love to sew jokes or costumes, but I never got into practical sewing.
MDLF : When did you move to Los Angeles?
Emma : I moved in September 2016. It was a process of elimination. Wanting a big city, a lot of art, and a lot happening.
I would always see on Instagram about all these artists having openings at these galleries. I just wanted to be there and I just wanted sun. I couldn't bear another winter in Portland. My boyfriend felt the same way.
MDLF : Do you feel as though the Los Angeles Art Culture embraced you since you’ve been here?
Emma : Yeah, I think being in Atwater and meeting you guys, it’s been really sweet. It’s such a tiny little community section. That feels great, its wonderful. In terms of the larger art world, I go to shows and look at art, but I don't interact with the community or reach out to people. I have been engaging it more passively, as I’m not much of a self promoter. (in Atwater Village) I think theres a lot of open arms here. I think it could have been a lot harder. Here in Los Angeles, people are a lot more open and interested, and I really like that.
MDLF : What are you currently working on?
Emma : I’m in this publication with a bunch of really cool comic book artist out of Portland. This really cool publisher called, Seven Stories Press , curated by Floating World Comics. I had to draw the Dalai Lama. I really appreciate the religious devotional artwork. I’m not religious myself.
All the work that goes into these [religious devotional artwork] it’s unbelievable and it’s not for anyone's artistic gain. It's just for their beliefs and that is so powerful. So, I've been looking into a lot of Tibetan Buddhist art and that is so beautiful.
MDLF: That makes sense that you would gravitate towards that type of art. I feel like Catholic art is very on the nose and very real, where that has [religious devotional artwork] has more abstraction to it.
Emma : It totally does, and even the animals they focus on aren’t real. They’re just drawing dragons. I’ve been working on dragons more recently. I am attracted to Catholic Art though. I think it’s so beautiful. It’s not really what I like to draw as much. I did a piece recently for a commission and a guy wanted western and eastern religions combined. The Virgin Mary coming out of a lotus, it was just kind of, it was beautiful, but I felt kind of hollow in it. I wanted to create these pieces, but I didn’t feel like if I was doing these any justice because it’s not much of a belief (of my own).
MDLF : What are your own beliefs. Are you spiritual?
Emma : I’m on a spiritual quest right now. Reading and listening to a lot of Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, and kind of exploring religions and beliefs. I’ve always been an atheist. My mom is an elder in the church and very much into her faith, but has always let me grow up how I want to. I think I'm more interested in what people believe in and the systems of belief than applying them in my own life.
MDLF : Were you raised religious?
Emma : I was raised going to church, but never a believer. My aunt is a Pastor - my mom's side of the family is very devoted.
MDLF: Since you’re not religious, what do you think is going to happen when you die?
Emma : I don’t think anything is going to happen.
MDLF : Are you okay with that?
Emma : Yeah. it’s just the end.
MDLF : What does Feminism mean to you?
Emma : It’s changed so much for me. What it means for me right now is a mutual respect for everyone and all life, whether it be a human or animal or the planet. I’m trying to honor that person and how I interact with the world. I’ve had to shift that definition because of the gravity in our political climate because of the terrible acts that are going on in this world and are bringing me down into a really dark place. And so if we can be kind and to each other and ourselves. That sounds really narrow. but I’ve had to narrow it down recently but it’s so important. I wish I had grown up with it (feminism). So I’m really hopeful for how present it’s been and for the future generation of women because it wasn't even a word used in my childhood. It was negative. Help those kiddos out.
Art Directed + Wardrobe Styling by Monica Reyes
Film by Dan Monick