Emily Jan creates intricately crafted, hyper-realistic installations made of a mixture of hand-made flora and fauna and found objects. These environments, like enterable museum dioramas, mix elements of high culture with low culture, science with mythology, and history with current affairs. Jan uses the local and the everyday to create bridges to the faraway and the fantastical. In her hands, common North American materials (wool, wicker, recycled cloth, found objects, and the ephemera of daily life) are transformed through labour-intensive processes. The creatures, wondrous and monstrous by turns, feel real but are entirely handmade. They are not taxidermy, but are emotionally believable to the point where they are often mistaken as such.
In this age of mass extinctions and climate change, the importance of being able to envision places we may never see, to hold space for them in our minds and in our hearts, is ever greater. And though not always overtly ecological, the work ultimately seeks to transport some of that distant experience to the viewer – to stretch the boundaries of our collective imaginings in order to encompass the unseen, to learn to love the unknown as well as the familiar, and ultimately to strive to weave all these strands into a larger narrative about what it means to be a human living in a world roiling with turmoil and catastrophe but yet which is still mysterious and beautiful.