Emma Kohlmann is a New York-born artist currently living and working in Western Massachusetts. She has mounted solo exhibitions at V1 Gallery, Copenhagen; Cinders, Brooklyn; Mata, Los Angeles; and Farewell Books, Austin. Her current show at Lower East Side gallery Jack Hanley is on view through this weekend, and tonight a group exhibition with her work and that of Heather Benjamin and Maria Paz opens at New Image Art in Los Angeles.
The Friday before Kohlmann’s Consumer Report saw the opening of her show at Hanley; therefore, her week starts in New York, where she stays with her parents in the Bronx and moves around the city, visiting bookstores and Artist and Craftsmen. The artist then returns to her Western Mass home base, where there is a lot of working and cooking with her sister. Finally, Kohlmann leaves for Kingston, New York, where she is to start a residency in the middle of the woods at the Stoneleaf Retreat. Within all of this there is a lot more activity and, of course, media consumption. Go deep below! —John Chiaverina
Monday, April 23
This morning I read aloud a chapter from All About Love: New Visions, a book from Bell Hooks’ Love Trilogy series.
Go to Artist and Craftsmen near Metropolitan Avenue for paper. What happened to all the good non-chain art stores in NYC? Or anywhere for that matter? I can never seem to find the paper I want. I hate ordering it online. I buy about 50 sheets of paper and have to carry them around for the rest of the day. I am in a perpetual state of being a bag lady. I am always carrying things around with me.
Take the L Train to Union Square.
Raisa Sandstrom texts me a photograph she took on expired film of my sister and I from my opening at Jack Hanley Gallery.
Walk to Strand Bookstore where I buy some erotica books. I spent too much time there. But I kind of feel like I deserve it after spending the last month working long studio shifts for my solo shows at Jack Hanley Gallery and the Tennis Elbow Gallery. In addition to a multitude of random things that I keep myself busy with. A little catharsis never hurt nobody.
I take the train back to my parents house in the Bronx.
Laugh about this targeted advertisement on ig. I guess enrollment is low…
Spend some time packing my car because I am leaving for Western Mass tomorrow.
Met my sister and went to our favorite thrift store. I will not tell you the name or location. Sorry but I can’t blow up the spot more than it already is.
Have dinner with my parents. Say farewell to them for an undetermined amount of time. They are always so chill with my very strange lifestyle.
Tuesday, April 24
My normal wake time is at 7:30 a.m. It varies from how many times I wake up in the middle of the night. Lately, I’ve been waking up very early. I have two shows coming up in the next two months. One is with my friend Heather Benjamin at New Image Gallery and the other is a solo show at Thank You Gallery in Virginia. Part of my morning is realizing I probably will not get a real break until July or August. On another note, I like waking up early. It’s better because it gives me some room to mess up and start over a couple times throughout the day.
My dad is planting his vegetable garden. I look over his shoulder to see his hand-drawn map of the garden and try to snap a picture. He says to me that it’s “top secret.”
My sister and I drive to Western Mass. It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from my parent’s house. We tend to drive there in just one shot. I put all the flowers I received from my opening in my car. I place three large bouquets in all the cup holders. It feels hard to drive because they are in the way.
I space out on the drive. I have all these intense ideas of installations I want to make. My best ideas are usually out of the studio and I never get a chance to write them down. I think about what I am going to write to my friend Chioma for our daily poetry exchange. I realize how pungent the car is with all the flowers. As mother would say, it smells like a funeral home.
It’s rainy and by the time we get to Northampton it is completely gray. Charlotte puts on the perfect outfit for this weather.
I send Chioma Ebinama a poetry text… I try to memorize this phrase for the entirety of the drive to Massachusetts.
Drop off paper at the Guild Art Store. They have a guillotine and cut paper for me.
Head to the studio. Bring flowers inside. Bring an old painting of Sonya’s inside.
I left my studio in disarray. I try to find the perfect place for a drawing my friend Bunny Lampert’s daughter gave to me at my opening. A metaphor: one side is a rainbow the other side is a spider. <3
I start drawings for an upcoming deadline for my friend, Clay Hickson. He makes a publication called The Smudge. It’s a replica of 1960s underground newspapers with contemporary influences. He often asks the most fantastic contributors and donates the proceeds to an organization in need. Not to mention it’s printed on a risograph. I am floored that I get to make illustrations for it.
I notice this thing that happens to me when I start work late in the day. I become slow and edgy. I like the mornings to think and digest things. I notice when I start drawing too late that I get stuck, I feel like I can fully annunciate things. This is happening to me right now. I try to envision them and they seem to never come to fruition. Maybe I’ll come back to this later…
Am I a rainbow or am I a spider?
Back to drawing again. I didn’t really stop even though I said I was going to.
It’s tofu tuesday. Charlotte has renamed the days of the week. I make dinner with my sister almost every night. We try new recipes but it always seems to be variations on the same things; rice with tofu + vegetables + in a bowl. Charlotte is wonderful cook among other things. I noticed her eating beans with chopsticks, bean by bean. A testament to her patience.
Watch Planet Earth season two, the islands episode with the Komodo dragons. I don’t like how they make the show a dramatic interpretation of what animals are really like in the wild. It feels like nature has its very own reality television show.
Wednesday, April 25
Why am I so addicted to coffee? I can’t help but wake up and feel so happy that I can drink it in the morning. I thanked (coffee) for helping turn me back into a person today.
Why do I check Instagram in the morning?
The art library opens at 9 a.m. I always wish it would open earlier. I bring my drawings to be scanned and to look at books. The library has a massive flatbed scanner. I have been coming here for years, it’s been such a faithful friend. Archiving my art practice using a digital platform. I spend some time reading books and rummaging through the stacks. I try to take notes on most of the books I read. I like referring back to them because I often forget what I’ve read. I sometimes think if this place didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in Western Mass for this long.
Get really obsessed with these Henry Darger drawings.
Scan all my drawings and color separate them. This process is hard for me. I like doing things analogue. Computers are my enemy sometimes. Decide that I need to make more drawings with ink instead of crayon. So I head back to the studio work more.
Heather and I brainstorm titles for our show at New Image Gallery.
Leave the library to go to the studio. Stop at my favorite stoplight.
Stop at Cooper’s Corner to get a snack. It’s as though everyone who works here is in high school.
Talked to Sonya Sombreuil for an hour and thirteen mins. Catching up on our lives. <3 Spending time on the phone with Sonya is one of my favorite things to do.
Keep drawing and cleaning the studio for the rest of the day.
Listen to Jazmin Romero’s Canciones Romanticas. Then to Jezenia Romero’s series of Bunny Jr. mix tapes. I listen to these tapes over and over and over again. I like this other tape of old school rap that Jezenia made with our friend Justin Smith from a few years ago.
Switch back to podcasts after a while. I listen to the rest of season 1 of CAUGHT podcast.Feeling sad.
Meet up with Charlotte and eat a variation of healthy dinner. We talk about our summer plans and how we want to make furniture for our makebelieve houses. I dream of buying a small shack. She wants an old victorian with a greenhouse.
Thursday, April 25
Wake up for no reason, listing off all the things have to do. I think my dreams wake me up sometimes, but I can’t remember this one.
I can’t believe I am leaving for a residency for the next two weeks. I feel very overwhelmed and starting to realize I create a lot of my own stress. Trying to not check Instagram when I wake up. I hate that I do it anyways.
Go to my favorite coffee shop to get my tenth cup of coffee for free.
Head to the studio to pack my art supplies for Stoneleaf Artist Retreat in Kingston, NY.
To bring: watercolors, acrylic paints, brushes, assorted pens, vessels, tapes, tape player, mini travel shrine (Sonya Sombreuil made for me), postcards, stamps, sketch books, and paper. Some books especially ones that keep me company.
While simultaneously on the phone with my mom, I seem to spend most of the morning traveling back and forth to my car. The residency is only two weeks but it’s a whole carload of stuff. I tend to overpack. I like having choices.
I head back to town to scan the rest of my illustrations for Clay. My oldest friend, Leila Tamari is giving a talk at Smith College. She meets me in my secret library spot. We met in middle school when we were eleven years old. We talk for a while because we are both incredibly busy. She is a true eccentric and taught me the meaning of hard work. I love her so much.
Send Clay all that I have for the publication. Hope that it works.
Take a really long walk with Charlotte on the bike path. I realize I barely get exercise now that I have a car. We walk around two miles near old barns and cornfields.
Re: Heather and I figure out the title to our show. Mirror of Venus. A portrait of Heather through texts:
Find leila and my sister. Spend time with them before I embark to my residency. Already miss my sister.
Friday, April 27
Leave for residency in Kingston, NY. I get coffee first, my favorite espresso tonic. But only on special occasions. Trying really hard not to speed through upstate New York. Driving still feels foreign to me. I spent most of my adult life receiving rides, taking public transportation or hitchhiking. I was fortunate enough that people wanted to give me rides, but feel a tremendous amount of guilt that they felt obligated to. I am the designated driver for life. I got my license around two years ago. It feels novel to me that I can decide to drive somewhere and arrive on my own accord. I appear somewhere else. All by myself.
I arrive to the middle of the woods in Kingston.
I start unloading my stuff into the upper part of a barn. It’s going to be my studio for the next two weeks. There is a garden with baby plants inside the studio. I love how spacious it is—empty of the trappings of my old life.
Start laying out the work I have to do. I have to start painting today. Realizing I have multiple things I have to do and that I might forget. I rewrite my to-do list.
Get Silke from Jack Hanley Gallery to send me images of the zine I made for my solo show. I forgot to grab some.
I think about some concepts for this film I am supposed to make. I was invited to join a film club started by Emma Leth. I get an 8mm film camera on loan for a couple weeks. I start to think about movement and how I want to dance. I am thrilled but terrified.
Lay out some drop cloth. Move around objects. Distract myself with my phone.
Write a postcard for my friend Joe Skilton. I have been a bad penpal lately.
Think about my show with Heather. Lay out paper on the ground.
Make a mess.
Listen to Everything Is Stories podcast, the most recent episode is about Jerry the Marble Faun, who lived and worked at Grey Gardens, but his story goes beyond those experiences. I highly recommend this podcast.
Go into town. Pick up some eggs and coffee.
Make something else. Mix purple.
Dinner at the residency. Meet with my lovely hosts, Helen Toomer and Eric Romano and other residents Sinta Tantra and Liz Collins. Have a warm home-cooked meal and talk until 10 p.m. I am very excited to start this adventure. Open studios will be at the end of the two weeks. They welcome people from in and around the area to see what we have been working on.
Obsessed with this Magnolia tree at night.