Emily Waters: America’s Ten Worst Prisons: The Plate Collection
Inspired by a real 19th century dessert plate that featured Eastern State Penitentiary, the artist has hand-painted ten porcelain plates with images of modern American prisons receiving the worst human rights accusations. Displayed in the historic site gift shop, the plates suggest a troubling relationship between wealth, social control, and the invisibility of the incarcerated.
Emily Waters is a designer, artist, and educator who lives in Brooklyn, NY. In 1984, after receiving a BFA from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana and finishing a two-year graphic design program at the Kunsgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzer- land, she moved to Manhattan’s East Village. Since then, Emily has worked as a designer at several of New York’s museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum and the Museum of the American Indian. She currently teaches design, typography, and drawing at Parsons The New School and Queens College.
In addition to designing, Emily has employed traditional crafts, such as weaving and ceramics, as art forms. Among other projects, she wove a series of rugs called “Love Hurts” in response to the AIDS crisis, and a “Roadrunner” rug series based on line patterns of city streets. More recently, she has combined her photography skills with ceramics by incorporat- ing photos and designs onto plates and tiles. From her ongoing photographic series of subway passengers, select photos were made into ceramic decals and placed on tiles she designed in the 17th century Dutch (or “Delft”) style—white squares with a blue glaze, circular centers, and decorative corners. As the original tiles often featured a range of people from contemporary life and fantasy, Emily chose images reflecting the uniqueness and diversity of New Yorkers and a style alluding to the city’s Dutch roots.
Emily currently lives near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with her husband and teenage twins.
Artist installations are made possible in part by revenue from Eastern State’s Halloween fundraiser, Terror Behind the Walls.
Eastern State also receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.