Local Artist Spotlight: Malcom Zachariah & Emma Difani

Artists Malcolm Zachariah and Emma Difani met through a group for emerging OKC artists.

Photo by Lexi Hoebing

This artistic partnership had an organic origin: Artists Malcolm Zachariah and Emma Difani met through a group for emerging OKC artists. Zachariah brought to the table a background in biology and over 25 years of kirigami (cut and folded paper) sculpture. Difani was a skilled paper and print maker. Their collaboration morphed into mega installation Seed Reef, one of the most exciting interactive art displays in the region, currently on display at Factory Obscura until April 24.

According to the venue’s description, “Seed Reef is an immersive, sculpted paper installation of a coral reef. Participants will walk ‘underwater’ through the kirigami reef as it transitions from a colorful, vibrant section full of corals, fish and other sea life to a barren wasteland of bleached coral skeletons. Participants are invited to restore Seed Reef by constructing and adding their own corals and other reef animals to the installation.”

Photo by Lexi Hoebing

Each half of the duo saw their own artistic ventures reach new heights when paired with each other’s mastery.

“The collaboration with Emma has really pushed what I thought kirigami could do. Learning about printmaking (including Emma’s papermaking class) helped me when I got a programmable cutting machine, such as getting precise alignment of the paper,” said Zachariah. “Art is challenging, and trying to work within limits, like making a coral reef all out of paper, leads to creative solutions. I also think visual art makes strong connections, even in abstract works that require the viewer to engage with the basic elements of art. Nature is always inspiring, especially plants and the amazing variety of patterns and colors found in the living world.”

Photo by Lexi Hoebing

Difani too found herself connecting deeply with the subject matter and process. “I love being in the zone of making,” she said. “Connection and connectivity, both people and place or nature, is a significant theme for me, and creating something which builds and strengthens those relationships is very rewarding. I am very driven by the tensions and harmonies between the grown and constructed environments and all of us living in them. ‘What are we doing?’ is a question that has been driving my work lately as humans try to figure out how to live on this planet without destroying ourselves and so many other living things in the process.”

Seed Reef represents what art can become in one of its peak forms — cooperative, community driven and continuously changing.

Zachariah’s work can be found at www.malcolmzachariah.com and on instagram at @Lakshwadeep. Difani’s is available at www.emmadifani. com and @emma_difani.