These portraits are unlike many of Lydia's others. Her work is inherently political. As the daughter of a civil rights protestor, activism runs in her blood. Her action is stimulated by a life-long desire to bring fire to the people. She creates with intention, because she believes that being in the public eye comes with a profound social responsibility. In this series she explores larger, more socio-political issues as well as personal dependence and experience. Working from life, each portrait is that of a real person, but is also of a broader idea and larger group of individuals.
Her paintings, heavily influenced by her background in street art, are powerful and full of life. With nearly 20 years of public art and politically-infused content—prevalent in her practice, Lydia’s murals and paintings have been treasured by cities all over the country. She combines personal symbolism from her own life in all works, making the artworks that much more meaningful. She not only paints on a collaged surface of the New York Times, Sunday edition—something she grew up around in her house; but, she also sees the greater hubris of the human condition in each painting, finding herself in each vice explored.
The paintings are strong and powerful portrayals of people who are bound. Like most people, Lydia is no stranger to suffering, and in the hope of giving a voice to the unheard, she seems to find solace in expressing the struggle of others through her art. She is both a cancer survivor and lives with Multiple Sclerosis, but this hasn’t slowed her down. In 2013, Lydia began work as an advocate for early detection and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and was made a Multiple Sclerosis Ambassador by the Genzyme Corp. She travels frequently to speak to patients and healthcare professionals about current life changing medical breakthroughs now available. She also founded and manages The Karma Underground (TKU), a not for profit organization who helps nomadic Tibetan girls get education and a better life.
In 2013, Lydia participated in several projects: She was commissioned by the Weinstein Company to paint a mural in Oakland as part of the premier of the motion picture Fruitvale Station. Lydia’s portrait of Julian Assange was featured in the documentary We Sell Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. She was also commissioned by the fashion house, Gucci, to paint the mural "Jessica's Story" in L.A.'s Skid Row—on the corner of East 6th Street and Ceres Avenue—depicting Jessica Madkiff's triumph over sex trafficking and exploitation. This project was in conjunction with Gucci's “Chime for Change” program, focusing on education, health and justice for every girl and every woman, everywhere. “The thing about art is, it can do more than hang—it can help,” Emily says.
Lydia has exhibited at galleries and museum in Milan, Berlin, Haiti, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Washington DC, San Francisco and more. This year, she will also have multiple pieces featured in the upcoming political documentary Pay to Play featuring Noam Chomsky. She is also the subject of a documentary about women in street art, by Blueprint Films, currently in production. Lydia lives and works in Los Angeles and is represented by Garboushian Gallery.
An opening reception for Lydia Emily's Bound exhibition will take place at Garboushian Gallery on Saturday, May 17, 2014 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The exhibition will remain on view until June 20, 2014.