Emma Plunkett: Mayfest Youth Artist Inspired by Nature
Talent, creativity and drive are three words that describe 18 -year-old Emma Plunkett. The Union High School Senior’s artistic skills have earned her a showcase in the Mayfest Youth Gallery. Her unique sculpture, “Bleached Coral,” is on view at ahha Tulsa, located at 101 E. Archer in Tulsa.
TK: Congratulations on being featured in the Mayfest Youth Gallery. How did it feel when you found out you won?
Emma: It was such a wonderful feeling to have professionals appreciate my work. I had worked so hard on that piece, and I was rewarded for that hard work. Years of practicing something I love has paid off. I was elated to have placed in Mayfest for the third year in a row! In 2019 I won second place. In 2020 I won Best in Show.
I’d also like to add I won another contest with my coral artwork last weekend. The Sutton Aviation Research Center holds an art contest each year. This year the Sutton Art award committee awarded me with first place in the 3D category and $1000. I was so honored to have won and to have a professor to affirm all of my hard work. I also had to write an essay about coral conservation to go with my artwork.
TK: How did you come up with the concept behind your sculpture?
Emma: My classroom got a bunch of plaster hump molds. They are usually used for bowls and such. But I saw it and wanted to sculpt on top of it. I eventually came to the idea of doing coral. I originally planned on entering it into the Sutton Art Contest, so I chose to focus on the conservation aspect of coral.
TK: Tell me a little about your sculpture.
Emma: Art title: Bleached Coral
The significance of this artwork is to show the detrimental effects global warming has on coral reefs. When the ocean water becomes too warm, the algae get stressed and leave the coral. The coral needs the algae to live. So once the algae abandon the coral, the coral turns a white/ grey color. If the algae does not return to the coral, the coral dies and withers away. This is why my piece is unglazed, to show the bleached nature of the coral.
TK: How long have you been sculpting?
Emma: I have been sculpting on and off since I was 4 years old. My elementary school teacher, Mrs. Shinn, gave us lots of opportunities to work with clay and other sculpture mediums. This year I am in an AP sculpture class with Miss Smart as my teacher. She has let me explore different ways to work with clay.
TK: Who inspires you?
Emma: In art I am more inspired by places, experiences and things rather than people. But in life, I am most inspired by my mom. She is so strong, hard-working and she has touched so many lives in a positive way.
TK: Where is your favorite place in Tulsa to draw creativity from?
Emma: I draw my inspiration from nature. So places in Tulsa like Woodward Park, the Gathering Place, Philbrook, other gardens and places where nature comes to life.
TK: What other hobbies do you have?
Emma: I enjoy many other forms of art. I love to paint with acrylics, knit and crochet, and use small pieces of paper in an art style called quilling. Also, I am a Drum Major in the Renegade Regiment.
This is the highest leadership position possible in our band program. On a normal non-COVID year we average 25+ hours a week working on a marching band show to take to competitions.
I enjoy camping, hiking, off-roading and rappelling. My family and I often travel to Utah and Arizona to go camping.
TK: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Emma: I want to be able to combine my love for space, geology, art and travel and possibly become an expeditionary artist. I’d love to travel with other scientists and illustrate the environments, plants and animals we observe.
TK: What advice do you have for others who want to learn to sculpt?
Emma: I would tell them that sculpture is so much more than just working with clay. For young artists, you can use recyclable things around your house, coat hangers, cardboard, metal cans and make something beautiful out of them. It’s as simple as that. Sculpture doesn’t have to be complex to be beautiful. Find new ways to express emotions, stories and experiences; use those feelings to make your art.
TK: What is a fun fact about you?
Emma: I am left-handed!