Selective Focus: Emily Koch


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Left: Photograph of Emily Koch. Right: “Self Portrait” 20×28. Oil on wood panel.

Emily Koch is a surrealist painter from Duluth. She studied fine art at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, graduating in 2020 and has worked as a freelance artist since then. She is drawn to all things queer, feminine and counterculture.

How long have you been an artist?

For as long as I can remember, my love for art has been invariable. It’s hard to imagine now, but when I was young I didn’t have access to a TV or a computer! Making art was how I kept myself entertained. I could keep myself occupied for hours drawing in my room: giving me the reputation of being somewhat antisocial within my family. It’s true! Sometimes I’d rather make art than talk to people.

Was a fine arts degree always your intent?

My degree in Fine Art wasn’t always the plan, I started at UWS majoring in Art Education. Deep down I had always wanted to go for the Fine Art degree, but part of me didn’t feel worthy. Like my art wasn’t good enough to warrant the degree. My last year in college I finally allowed myself to trust what I wanted and I switched from Art Education to Fine Art.

A woman painted yellow with honey dripping down her face is surrounded by bees and plants

“Ambrose : the Caretaker.” 35×30. Oil on Wood Panel.

A man with short hair and a mustache looking sad with some flowers

“Bret” 26×40. Oil on Wood Panel.

How would you describe your current style, and how did that style come to be?

I have a deep passion for creating artworks that are human focused. My portraits are injected with narratives that highlight and celebrate the individuals seen within the paintings. I’ve described them as “love letters to my friends.” This type of work is rooted in connection, which is my main goal as an artist: to start conversations and nurture connection.

Primarily working with oil on wood panels, I consider my work to be a modern take on a medium with thousands of years of history. My paintings are unapologetically feminine, queer, and counter culture. Qualities I had associated with shame in the past now take center stage in my art.

Painting of a sad girl resting her head in one hand and holding a burger in the other

“Burger Blues” 40×40. Mixed Media on Wood Panel.

Woman in a prom dress and crown wears a sash that reads "sensitive". The mascara running down her cheeks contrasts with the sparkly streamers behind her

“Queen” 40×40. Mixed Media on Wood Panel.

A man looks saintlike against a red background wearing a white veil

“Bartholomew: the Martyr” 22×30. Oil on Wood Panel.

Why do you feel it is important to highlight shame as an artist?

Shame is so powerful because it is silent. It is silent, yet the

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