• Emma Carney

Sleep, Sex, Sick

Hello! For this week's blog post, I want to revisit a body of work that I has been on my mind a lot lately. I made these paintings at the beginning of my MFA, when I was thinking about what it meant to be a body in my studio and what it meant to dwell there.


The word “dwelling” has two definitions. One veers to a physical sense of the word (a building or place of shelter to live in; place of residence; abode; home), while the other is cognitive or emotional (to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing). These paintings came from both. The spaces that my body fills, are also filled with the non-physical parts of my body (my thoughts and feelings). The spaces, and my paintings, become the foundations for me to contend with my day-to-day affective resonances.


Often, I have thought about my my studio as a place of dwelling. Akin to my bed; it is a place of uncertainty, fussiness, rest, and everything in between. It is something I am rooted to, where I constantly return. I don’t see dwelling as a place of retreat. Instead, it is where I can wrestle with my thoughts thought and life lived.


SLEEP SEX SICK, 2018, oil on canvas, 60x72”


The title of this painting, and the overarching theme of these paintings (SLEEP SEX SICK) is a tongue-in-cheek reference to my relationship with my bed. I once had a conversation with my sister, who rolled her eyes at all the crumbs in my sheets- evidence of my time spent there, “for the sake of your health- your bed is for sleep, sex, and sick-- that’s all!” This made me question my relationship to my bed, but in a less clinical way. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time in my bed. I use it for TV watching, endless internet surfing, excessive snacking, and the like. My bed is where I can be with my comforts but it is also a space where I can drift into contemplation. My bed is where I put everything at the end of the day.



Can You Sleep If I Grind My Teeth? 2018, oil on canvas, 60x72”


For German philosopher, O.F. Bollnow, a dwelling space is something that separates the outside from the inside. It demands a sense of rootedness, or fixedness. A place where we can refer back to. He describes the outer space as the space for activity in the world; a place of vulnerability. While the inner space, a space of rest.


These paintings are about my studio as a place of dwelling in a direct way. The bed-shapes, and bath-shapes were intended to act as an extension of these spaces, to engulf a body, and make space for a rest.


Unsolicited Self Care Tips, 2018, oil on canvas, 60x72”


For me, dwelling is provisional; it encourages a state of becoming, or evolving. These spaces are for nurturing the residue of lived experience. This is what painting is for me. I can contend and re-contend with the residues, the accumulations, the emotions of what I have lived. Every session of painting demands another one, that I return to it and keep going. The same way we live knowing that there is another day coming tomorrow. As a painter (and, well, a human), I am always in a state of becoming. I embrace not-knowing-- yet I’m still curious, and I keep going.

Hot Love and Emotion, 2018, oil on canvas, 60x72”


These painting are about dwelling in a very direct way. The bed-shapes and bath-shapes are intended to act as an extension of my spaces, so that when they're looked at, there is opportunity to have a similar experience to mine in the studio. They offer a stillness and a structure that can bend into memories, emotions and linkages to the day-to-day. For example, Hot Love and Emotion, when I look at it now, is the dashboard of all the cars I've ever driven. It holds laughs, road rage, mundane commutes and late night heart-to-hearts.


This body of work has been present in my mind while my studio and my home have become more linked during a pandemic. I find myself searching for spaces to inhabit in my paintings. In these spaces I rearrange, process, and expand.