Art as an unromanticised love letter: student artist discusses identity, expression in artwork


Courtesy of Emily Bryn

St. Edward’s University senior Emily Bryn poses in front of her artwork. Bryn is currently pursuing her degree in art.

Nicco Pelicano / Hilltop Views

Not a single piece of her art was sold at the first event Emily Bryn was invited to. Even when she left future events completely sold out, she felt just as empty as she did the first time. Bryn decided to stop creating for the outside gaze; the one that, although sustainable, had led her to create work that did not reward her and that would end up hanging in a dentist’s office. 

“If I was in the customer’s shoes, I wouldn’t have bought anything either because it was the most meaningless work,” Bryn said. Realizing this, she spent the next consecutive months only creating work that came from her heart; work that she thought was good. 

During quarantine, Bryn picked up screen printing, which began with aesthetic designs and a photo of George Floyd that she sold and donated the profits to an organization that helps young Black youth. 

“After I realized that people are willing to buy art even though it’s a luxury and not a necessity, and I could help other people while I was getting my stuff out there, I just thought it was so cool,” Bryn said. 

Bryn, an art student and senior at St. Edward’s University, considers herself both an artist and entrepreneur. Even though she describes herself as “extremely white passing,” Bryn embraces the fact that she is half Mexican. 

“That is an aspect of my identity that’s not surface-level seen, but it’s true to who I am,” Bryn explained. 

As a way to express this vital part of her identity, Bryn dedicated her online brand to her Mexican roots by screen printing on tote bags and shirts with art that surrounds immigration and abolishing customs enforcement. 

“Earlier I would screen print just like pretty pictures. Now it’s all tied to my cultural upbringing,” Bryn revealed. 

Pursuing a degree in art, Bryn reserves her other artistic identity to express her feelings. 

“The fine art stuff I make here is like sad girl emotional things. I need a way to filter through my thoughts and experiences,” Bryn said, commenting that her artistic side and entrepreneur side are two personas which haven’t and maybe will never meet. 

While struggling to find her style, Bryn explained that her professors and peers encouraged her to paint without needing to create something beautiful; to paint what comes naturally. With that advice, Bryn painted her very favorite piece.

Being an art student comes with the brutality of peer feedback, which helped Bryn realise that if she just allowed herself  “to create without the necessity of a deeper meaning” she would always walk away from her work feeling as if she sold out every time.

Bryn longs to be what her professors at school are to her. 

“I feel like I take so much more from my art classes into the real world than in any other class I’ve taken,” Bryn said. 

“Emily is such a kind and warm presence and her work truly reflects that. To know that she donates the profits from [her] sales to different charities and organizations each month, just adds to the level of respect towards the art and artist,” Bryn’s friend, Bella Chiocca, said. 

Bryn uses art as a love letter to her Mexican heritage, to those in need and to her very own soul by staying true to her voice. 

“Art has taught me how I can express adoration for someone in a way that resonates beyond the English language,” Bryn said. 

Pursuing her split journey in the art world, Bryn realized that painting for herself gives her room to honor her own life while honoring those around her, by giving them not what they want, but what they need. Art, in any case, isn’t supposed to be pretty, it’s supposed to make people feel something.