Artist Emmy Marshall wants to lift up Atlanta’s queer arts community

Emmy Marshall is having a moment. The abstract artist had his work selected in June to be a part of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ art exhibit, which runs through August at City Hall. His work was also featured at an Articulate Atlanta art show on July 13 at Mason Fine Art Gallery.

The gay Atlanta native took a few minutes with Q to talk inspiration, the city’s “exploding” art scene, and his big plans for you to keep an eye out for.

Tell us about your journey in art.

I started creating art at a very young age. My parents would buy art sets for me every Christmas. I would take my art sets with me when I went to spend the night with friends and family. When I was in elementary school, my teacher had me drawing things for the holiday boards in the class, and I just couldn’t stop creating. 

Abstract art for me was born when another artist gave me a canvas. I had been collecting paint from Home Depot and decided to paint over his canvas. I gave it to my cousin as a housewarming gift, and everyone loved it. 

I enjoy the freedom of creating abstract. I have infinite possibilities. There are no rules; I simply make my own.

What inspires you? 

The unique human experience of color is what inspires me as an artist. The need to express myself without words and knowing that inspiration is a never-ending journey inspires me to produce more material.

What’s the state of Atlanta’s art scene? 

It’s exploding and not to be missed. There are so many opportunities for artists to get involved. I love how the City of Atlanta is involved with getting artists to paint bicycles on the street, signal boxes and murals. 

I would like to see more group shows like Articulate. I love events that bring other artists together from different backgrounds for a great cause.

Is your LGBTQ identity reflected in your work?

The basis of my work stems from optimism. I am forever optimistic. 

Specifically, I have about four pieces that reflect my LGBTQ identity. “Move Your Body” is on display at Atlanta City Hall until Aug. 26. This particular piece was inspired by the thriving LGBTQ scene here in Atlanta. Our scene is colorful, full of energy and growing daily.

Do you have a favorite piece? 

My favorite piece in my entire collection is called “One Direction.” I consider myself an eternal optimist. I love this piece because it describes how I look at life: Live in the present, remember the past and fear not the future. Life flows in one direction.

What’s the biggest challenge as an artist?

My biggest challenge when it comes to creativity is actually seeing what I have created and accepting it. When I finish work, I place it in front of my bed to see if I will fall in love with it or not. 

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

Be authentic. Compete only with yourself. Keep creating no matter what, and trust the process. Lastly, put your work out there!

What’s next for you? 

After having my work highlighted in the office of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, I was inspired. We are planning and thinking through how we can engage the queer arts community in both short-term and long-term ways here in Atlanta. 

The opportunities for an artist are endless. I just finished my latest collection “OPTIMISTIC II.” Now I am in the process of writing my photo book of art with detailed information on my creative process.

Follow Emmy Marshall on Instagram and Twitter @paintedbyemmy. Photo by Russ Youngblood for Q.

This interview originally ran in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:

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