Modern female icons inspire series of powerful portraits by Samantha Louise Emery

Whether it’s your mum, your nan, your year six teacher, Rena Riffel from Showgirls, Simone de Beauvoir or just a mate, most of us have an inspirational woman or two in our life worth celebrating.

Artist Samantha Louise Emery has done just that, creating a series of ten portraits celebrating the women who have inspired her throughout her life for the series IKONA | Mirrored Interior.

Each piece – made over exactly nine months—was created using digital drawing, photo compositing, embroidery and painting. Emery digitally printed each image, beforehand embroidering them with silver, copper and golden thread, then applying acrylic paint before stretching the canvas with stainless steel cable wire onto custom-made frames. The idea is that the final stretched piece resembles a skin and a way in which the artist can get under the skin of those women she’s depicting.

The pieces show their subjects as abstracted portraits that are only truly revealed with close scrutiny. Among those Emery has turned her focus to are the wonderful artist and musician Laurie Anderson; Anatolian vegetable seller Sadiye, whom Emery described as “crazy yet beautiful”; writer and comedian Caitlin Moran and activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

“My series IKONA honours 10 women alive today who have inspired my evolution and journey in rediscovering the source of a woman’s power, the Feminine spirit,” says Emery. “I believe in the potential and majesty of female solidarity and feel privileged to live in a time of change when many women have asserted their Feminine selves and have inspired others through their actions.”

Each of the pieces also incorporates imagery of Emery’s own body, showcasing the connection she feels with her subject and also intimating at her vulnerability as an artist. This comes to its conclusion in the final portrait, titled IKONA 10 Lucy. Emery’s father nicknamed her Lucy; and the piece is a self-portrait in which the artist represents herself as two entities: one is her as “free”, the other as a hooded figure in the process of liberating herself.

A portion of the money made from selling the work is donated to the Working Chance charity, the only recruitment consultancy for women leaving the criminal justice and care systems; and the Malala Fund which works to give all girls the chance to an education.


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