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Emily Wallace with cutout signs she created for Chet Miller, a gift boutique in Durham.

 

Emily Wallace

Deputy editor, Southern Cultures journal

Center for the Study of the American South

Illustrator and artist

I’m the deputy editor at Southern Cultures quarterly, which is published by UNC Press and is part of the Center for the Study of the American South. We cover a range of subjects, from special issues on food to documentary arts to photography. We have a special issue on Appalachia coming out this spring. 

I received a B.A. in art and creative writing from Emory & Henry College in Southwest Virginia and a B.F.A. in studio art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then my M.A. in folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill.

I’m an only child, and I spent a lot of time drawing and doodling when I was growing up. My grandmother was also an artist, so we would draw and make things together. She painted a lot of nature and flower scenes, whereas I was focused more on cartoons and comics, but we both worked with watercolors. I still have a number of her paints and brushes that I use. She was also a writer, so we enjoyed doing that together, too.

My mom was an English teacher — she was actually my English teacher my senior year in high school in Smithfield, N.C. We joke that we’re not sure whom that was harder on! But she’s a good storyteller and always encouraged me to write and pursue creative projects. I think the reason I gravitated toward comics, beyond the humor, is the narrative component. I’ve always liked the interplay of words and images. So a lot of what I do — even if it’s just one art panel — is story-based in some way. That’s what led to my interest in folklore — an opportunity to combine my interests in art and writing. I try to do that as much as possible. A recent example from Gravy, a quarterly published by the Southern Foodways Alliance, is “Ham to Ham Combat,” which I wrote and illustrated about ham makers in Smithfield, N.C., my hometown, and Smithfield, V.A, for which it’s often confused. It contains a lot of research but is pretty goofy, too. I also just started working on an illustrated book with the University of Texas Press, which will combine short food-related essays and drawings, so I’m excited about that.

One of my favorite drawing professors at the Art Institute, Barbara Rossi, always encouraged me that I didn’t have to choose just one thing — that I could do many things, whether printmaking and painting, or writing and drawing. Or editing! And I’ve really taken that advice to heart.

 

View more of Wallace’s illustrations. The Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library will feature an exhibition of the work Wallace has done for different newspapers and magazines such as The Indy Week, Our State magazine, Edible Piedmont and more from April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018.

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