Alyse Emdur

Alyse EmdurArtist’s Statement

From 2005 to 2013, in addition to making documentary-based videos and drawings, I dedicated myself to what became, Prison Landscapes, a 176-page book that features more than 150 vernacular portraits of prisoners representing themselves in front of prisoner-painted idealized landscape backdrops, large-format photographs of portrait studios in prisons and an interview with incarcerated artist Darrell Van Mastrigt. Prison Landscapes came from a personal place; it was inspired by a photograph I found of myself at age five posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting my brother in Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, NJ. Throughout the run of the project, I corresponded with hundreds of incarcerated Americans and eventually photographed portrait studios in 12 state prisons with a large format camera.

While focusing on Prison Landscapes and other lens-based projects, I largely neglected my foundational drawing practice, which became a sort of secret practice. For the past year, I have re-invested myself in the picture plane and the limitations of black ink on paper. Like my earlier work, my drawings use earnest humor to face loneliness, existential crisis, social struggle and the desire to escape. Intimate in scale and medium, they are both personal and political.



Select Group Exhibitions

Magic Mountain, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, CA

Taking the Waters, High Desert Test Sites, Zzyzx, CA

Geographies of Detention, California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA

Of the Ordinary, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY

No Bingo for Felons, Arcadia University, Glenside, PA

Select Fellowships and Awards

Printed Matter Award for Artists, New York, NY

Fotokem Film Grant, Los Angeles, CA

Select Community-based Artwork

Talk to Me, Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles, CA

Willowbrook is/es . . . , (with Rosten Woo) Willowbrook, CA, Los Angeles County Arts Commission

Children’s Waiting Room (with Rosten Woo and Michael Parker), LAPD Scientific Investigation Department, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

How to Survive (with Michael Parker), Joshua Tree, CA, High Desert Test Sites


M.F.A., 2010
Roski School of Fine Art, USC, Los Angeles, CA

B.F.A., 2005
The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY