Sabra Embury: “No bullshit.”



Name: Sabra Embury
DOB: Jan 26 / Aquarius 
Place of Birth: Jeonju, South Korea
Occupation: Artist

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I've had a somewhat unusual life since birth. I've never lived in one home too long. My father (RIP) was an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force. He met my mom when he was stationed in Korea, and she was a teen. We lived in a different city every year until they divorced when I was eight. I was based in the South for a while after that, in Tennessee, then I moved to Austin, Williamsburg, Silverlake, and now I'm back in Brooklyn, dodging ginkgo berries on sidewalks.

When did you venture into art and what was the trigger?

Art's been important in my life since I was a child. I was always drawing, building, sculpting, glueing scrapbooks. In one of my high school yearbooks, there's a picture of me smiling at the pottery wheel. At college, I was obsessed with graphite pencils more than paint for a while. I learned a few technical tricks there, but not a lot. My favourite professor would often say she thought I had a bright future in illustrating children's books. Who knows, maybe one day.


How did the first object collage happen?

It's funny, I never really thought there was much potential in the medium of collage for me when I started. However, I kept running into these Life magazines. They regenerated every day in the same spot in my neighbourhood. I'd see them walking my son to camp every morning, pick them up and take them with me thinking 'well the ads might look beautiful framed.

Eventually, I had accumulated about 150 issues, all from the mid to late 60s, stacked in piles in my home. I began by tearing out pages I wanted to frame, and then I started cutting out hands, then eyes, then people, & all of that escalated with much time and effort to become what it ultimately became. I ruined a lot just trying to figure out what glue to use. Moreover, the colleges themselves started fairly simple, but I had a lot on my mind at the time, a lot of pent-up emotions and anxiety I needed to channel.

What advice would you give anyone trying to get all in to become an artist?

I worked a day job while figuring out the transition between the lit and art worlds. My advice to anyone would be to save money when you can, and make money where you can. All that while saying hell no to feeling like you're too good to be a cashier at a fish taco stand, or an assistant or whatever. I've worked every type of job imaginable. I feel like a huge part of being an artist is in learning how to channel your frustration, and a lot of that frustration gets amped up when our freedom is compromised.


Have you thought about positioning yourself as the “female artist”?

I've never considered gender as a positioning factor in any of it, really. When it comes to art, the work speaks for itself, more than whom it came from, and as far as being seen goes, it's all so relative to each viewer and what they're into at the moment. All I think to do is to put out decent, honest work to connect and share with everybody.

How important is beauty in your work?

Some say everything is beautiful when you look at it with love. For me, I think beauty is convenient for my work if it arrives with what I need to say. I'm so sensitive to beauty; it makes me cry all the time.

You are currently in the middle of an exhibition about metamorphoses. What does this process mean to you in comparison to the human experience?

The human experience is one metamorphosis after another. A shedding and re-shedding of former lives attached to a diminishing foundation. I think we're all holding onto some speck of purity we're born with, and then comes life with all it's chaos and love and pain just wailing into that bright speck all the time. We build our outer shells or selves around it, and once in a while we connect with others and let them see that preserved version of ourselves. Some of us are sad to the core, or resilient and burning bright or both.

Have you always been living in New York?

I moved to New York about ten years ago from Austin, Texas. My first apartment was a tiny place with no closets on the Lower East Side. I then moved to Los Angeles for a few years, and I am back in Brooklyn for about four years now. As far as the creative scene goes, it's always felt pretty easy to tap into something.

Thinking back, what was the single one moment where you thought to yourself “life is all right”?

Sometimes life feels alright, and sometimes I can't even enjoy that feeling without also feeling naive. Ice cream's occasionally fun. Alternatively, spending time with people I admire/strive to be more like in some way. When a warm ray of sun hits my face, and the air smells nice.

Do you want to talk a bit about your values?

My values are pretty simple. Kindness begets kindness. Tell people you love you love them. Exercise. Recycle. No bullshit.

When you sense something, or someone doesn’t feel right, how do you deal with the situation?

Intuition's Important. Sometimes I wonder why it's so hard for more people to trust their gut feelings, but it probably has a lot to do with others constantly undercutting their opinions trying to convince them to do what THEY think is right, unless of course, you trust someone enough to take their advice because you know they mean well. That counts as a lot to me: meaning well. It's like people, in general, can be confused, crazy, always late, bad with money or whatever, but if you know they mean well, that counts for a little extra mercy.

How do you start your day?

Every morning I wake up at 7:30 am, make coffee, walk my son to school and silently pray to whatever productivity gods that I'll be able to sit still and focus enough to create something that'll offer me a genuine feeling of satisfaction. Although that feeling never really lasts that long does it? I guess that's a huge part of it though. And that's fine.

All about Sabra here:

Interviews, NewsAlexandra Plesner