Top 20 Jews In The Arts - Emily Nemens

"Jill of all trades" Emily Nemens talks to us for Day 6 of our Top 20 feature.

Published: April 15th 2011
in Culture » Art

Emily Nemens
Pic: Simon McDermott Johnson

Over the next 20 days, ShalomLife will be presenting the Top 20 Jews In The Arts. One artist will be featured a day from various disciplines including visual arts, acting, writing, comedy, and music.


We sent the participating artists the same 30 questions with instructions to answer all, or just a few. Have fun learning about these fascinating individuals, and please check back daily to compare their answers. Enjoy!




Emily Nemens


Emily Nemens truly defines the term “Jill of All Trades”. This talented gal has garnered attention as a writer, painter, and graphic artist. Born and raised in Seattle, Nemens made the move east to attend Brown University  to study art history and visual arts. While working on her degree, she moved to Washington D.C to work at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and then off to Madrid to study Spanish art and architecture. Nemens has now settled in Brooklyn .


In 2004, Nemens published a graphic novel about the 2004 Madrid train bombings (online at She is best known for Scrub, a fascinating collection of stories that puts a unique spin on the Days of Awe by telling tales of everyday atonement, including a pregnant 16-year old who resolves her issues by speaking with an imaginary astronaut and a homeless man on a mission to reunite with his family.


For more info on Emily Nemens and to check our her art and writings, please visit


Where do you go when your lacking inspiration?


I love going to the Metropolitan Museum. My first job out of undergrad was there, but even after a few years of day-in-and-day-out, it never gets old. Every time I go, I still find something new, unexpected, and motivating.


What's your favorite place to travel to?


I feel like I’m still learning; I don’t have a favorite place yet. Wherever I go, I do like to check out their art museum – the local collection says a lot about the local culture and the history of a place.


Do you have any pets? Tell us about them.


No pets, though I grew up with some very devoted guinea pigs.


What's your favorite dish? Where do you normally get it?


I’m happiest eating homemade food, but I can’t say I have a favorite dish. A couple of friends are developing a line of barbeque sauces, and I must say I’m always happy to be in their test kitchen.


What's your biggest pet peeve?


The L train in Williamsburg. I know it’s become this fabled subway line (full of hipsters, buskers, and good-looking strangers), but in the mornings it’s just over-full, and makes the morning commute an elbows-necessary ordeal.


Are you religious? Spiritual? Nothing at all?


I practice some; I wish I found the time to go to synagogue more often. Friday nights are special for me; even if it’s just getting together with friends for candles and a quiet evening. It’s important to mark the week’s progress, and be thankful for all we have.


What's your favorite movie?


I had a thing for Keanu Reeves growing up, and thus, Speed was a favorite for way too long. But I do like some action in my films, and a little urban grit; the Fighter was my top pick for last year, and I loved French Connection and The Fugitive.


TV Show?


My boyfriend turned me onto this great BBC show called Inspector Lewis. It’s a crime drama set in contemporary Oxford. It’s somewhere between CSI and Dickens.




The Talking Heads are always on the top five. I’m a big fan of the modern-day troubadours – the Walkmen, Elvis Perkins, Beirut, Wilco. Lots of crooning, lots of disaffection.


 If you weren't doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?


I’m pretty thrilled to toggle between fiction and illustration—but if I had to walk away from both, I’d love to play bari sax in a band. I’ve played sax since I was a little girl, but I’ve had to put it aside these last few years to pursue writing, art, and rent.


What's your biggest regret?


Related articles: (Emily Nemens, Metropolitan Museum, Brooklyn, Graphic Novel, Scrub, Keanu Reeves, Pearl Jam)
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