Emma Jo Mills Brennan does art for the “exploration and reflection” it affords her. “All of my work is related to my love for the earth, unless it’s abstract and then it’s going into the spiritual realm, then it’s meditative.”
That connection to the land started with the family lifeway. Brennan’s Mashpee Wampanoag father (who owned the Mashpee landmark Ockrey Trading Post) provided his family with fresh game, “one deer a year, geese, quail, partridges, ducks, fish,” and with produce from his garden. Her mother was the daughter of Italian immigrants who wrote, drew and created ceramic flowers so delicate they looked real. (Her brother, Elwood Mills Jr., is a local writer. Her uncle, Earl, is a writer, restaurateur and respected tribal chief.)
After a divorce, Brennan returned to her childhood home hand-built by her father after World War Two on land the Wampanoag had lived in for thousands of years. Its cranberry red exterior and pine paneled interior look out through a protected pitch pine and oak forest (“on 300 acres I helped save for perpetuity years back,” she noted) to a secluded lake. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful, inspiring — indeed sacred setting, one would almost have to do art living there.
“At heart I ’m a sculptor,” Brennan said. She’s created numerous sensuous abstract “Henry Mooreish” clay nudes and masks of distinctly Wampanoag faces, but much of her work is sculptural in that she gives her two-dimensional paintings a three dimensionality. “I ’m also very color conscious, changes of the time of day, I enjoy looking — and taking it in; to try to transmit it out is the big challenge.”