Hellion Gallery: EMA Show


Hellion Gallery in Portland, OR is currently having a show with a number of phenomenal artists. They were tasked with each making an Ema, a small wooden plaque on which prayers or wishes are written. These are then left hanging for spirits or gods to see. The pieces are diverse and beautiful as their creators. Additionally a number of the artists in the show took a few minutes to answer a prompt, so check out the show if you’re in the Hood! And check out their work and thoughts:

Did you approach this piece as a wish you wanted to put into the world? Or simply as a piece of art? What is your connection to spirituality, does it have any meaning for you? How is this reflected in your Ema?

Jeff P
It’s important to keep in mind the medium and context when working on a piece. I don’t think the two are separate. With that said, this is not an illustration of a specific wish, but rather a question to be answered by the viewer in it’s proper context as an Ema plaque.


If I can define spirituality as the appreciation of the unknown and the unknowable, then I have a very strong connection to it. It is very much what my paintings are about. Spirituality, by this definition, represents the pursuit of the unknowable despite the impossibility of knowing.

The juxtaposition of seemingly disparate natural elements in the context of natural history illustration forces the viewer to search for connections and extrapolate larger conclusions about the universe.

Tamaki Mori
The theme of my ema is “the story of a constellation”. I feel the spirituality and humanity in these stories. I think “profane” in completely different way as ” holy ” ,but they will continue to appear closely in our life . I don’t have a specific religion but drawing is similar to praying for me. I am allowed to live always in my work as a ” holy ” and ” profane ” . I drew ” holy ” and ” profane ” to EMA through “the story of a constellation”.



“my art is directly related to my spirit, usually my works are a cry, or sigh of my soul and try to leave in this world a positive energy, but I think that this is not my exclusivity, all artists in one way or another do it , some express negative feelings or frivolous, but they do, starting from creativity and not from of destruction, … my three Emas are a cosmic ride where there is not up or down, or worldly conventions, is a little leave everything behind and find the magic”



Kozy N Dan
Dan: I think the majority of experiences in our life that we have considered spiritual experiences have happened to us in the ocean or in water. I suppose that starts for all of us as we in water in the womb, but Kozy and I discovered so much connection with one another, and to the universe as whole through our experiences in the ocean and with marine life. If spend a lot of time in the water with humpback whales you have a change of perspective that is hard to get any other way. All at once you realize that you are incredibly small in the Universe, but at the same time you can be connected in an incredible way with things that have nothing to do with human creation. The ocean is our place of worship for that reason I guess. Anytime we are painting people in water, it is somewhat of a reverential feeling for us, so I guess this is just the kind of vibe we went to send out into the world and those viewing the Ema we painted.



Zach Johnsen
I had the animal kingdom on my mind while creating these pieces.. in particular I was thinking about endangered species and their habitats and how those habitats (thus their lives) are coming under ever increasing pressure from food production and development.. If there was any wish I was focused on, it was that we realize the importance of biodiversity on planet earth.. and fast!


I have always had a strong affinity for being out in the woods.. the smell, the dampness, the bark and leaves and fungus all around.. Being alone surrounded by nothing but the natural world is the closest I have ever felt to being spiritual (or close to the spirit) and I think that’s because I am, in fact, close to the source in those instances..


My art for the Ema show reflects creatures in the natural world.. if not outright, but what I imagine some of the essences of natural elements would look like if we could see them..