Tumble Brush Dirt (2009).
A: I noticed that your objects’ surfaces and colors have a sun-bleached appearance as if they’ve been tossed in the ocean and washed up on a beach. I’m wondering if where you came from has any effect on your work?
E: It definitely does. I grew up in Texas with a lot of intense sunlight. And I’ve also spent a lot of time in desert landscapes and just outside in general. I’ve always been aware of how the elements can whether things and fade color. Actually, many of the things in the home I grew up in got sun bleached through the windows, including some of my own older art there that is almost now invisible. Also growing up in proximity to Mexico, I think the colors from that country have always interested me - faded murals on buildings. I think I intuitively find objects that have those faded colors and often work within that pallette.
A: Do you think of your sculptures as landscapes in themselves or are they more like artifacts from the landscape?
E: That’s interesting. Sometimes I see them as topographical landscapes and microcosms; especially some of the smaller pieces. I have thought about it that way - but i also see some of the forms existing on their own, and they could in a sense be a part of or within a landscape.
A: You place objects in such a way that they form groupings like cliques; other times they seem more distant - like friends losing touch. I’m wondering how you see human relationships. Are we essentially alone or are our relationships genuine?
E: I don’t try to specifically answer to that in my sculptures; but i think about that quite a bit. The pieces often do become these kind of personified entities. I’ve found that sometimes when I’m doing installations and I have a larger space to play with I really play with these kind of groupings. Since these are awkward, physical forms it’s almost easy to address issues of isolation or acceptance within a grouping, through placement. I’m always thinking of relationships and the body and what it means to be alive and physical in space.
A: There is definitely a certain sense of anxiety in relationships of any kind. You can know a person so well but really never truly know what they are thinking or feeling.Everything is so fragile and built on these precarious foundations. Even though I of course do have close relationships with people; I often feel like everything is in a state of perpetual flux because there is such a strong but delicate veil of emotions around everyone.
E: And there are these kind of philosophical questions that come in and ideas of perception and reality. Like trying to understand what other people might be thinking or feeling and who you even are. That always there. I think for me my art does try to answer some of those questions. Getting into that internal space of making, solving problems through process and formal issues; as your wrestle with material and ideas sometimes these things get answered or sometimes they just make you aware of your doubt and uncertainty. I was always very close to my family, very creative with my brother and sister. Although I moved around a lot, I was never trying to leave. Art can serve as a metaphor for figuring out who you are and who to open up to.
I’ve had I often have these pairing or clustering of random fragments. There are often different kinds of pairing and parts of wholes. I think about creating spaces with my forms but also having these self-contained objects. I’m always playing with relationships. and often the studio space becomes a big installation of all these forms because of economy and space; but when I separate them they have their own existence and a breath all on their own.
A: I notice that in Abacus it really looked like a whole universe in of itself. Is that a metaphor for an internal universe?
E: It could be - these parts within one structure that can move around and have their own life. I was thinking about the solar system and collections and pairings of things. The ideas that I faced when making abacus are still things that come up in my work, especially in these nets I’ve been making, its a way of suspending forms, and connecting disparate objects, made or found. I collect and connect objects in relationship to color scheme, tactility or materiality.
A: also just the name abacus, obviously has a connection to math. I find that interesting in relation to art. There is such a beautiful precision in the world - if everything wasn’t the way that it is - nothing could be. I think that is incredibly beautiful and in a way that precision invigorates me with a reason for being and gives such a great sense of purpose. I think math and science actually have a strong relationship to art. There is a certain precision in art even though for instance a DeKooning may seem chaotic – each stroke is precise and specific. Your work has a sense of specificity in terms of place, color and relationships - what are your thoughts on that?
E: Well, I think systems, the universe, geometry fascinates me, and it does make you wonder about all of the precision in how we are made and the world around us. It makes you wonder if that exists in the relationships and all the randomness of everyday life and what is meant to be. And in the studio, it’s like when you’re making things you’re kind of tapping into a deeper understanding of the way that things fit. And even though it‘s all your decisions, you’re all the more allowing intuitive things to happen that make sense and is specific by the act of letting go.
A: How do you approach the specificity of form in abstraction? To me they seem like they are abstracted from memories - like something that you are trying to piece together while its already wet and slipping through your hands as your trying to recall it. Or are they based on observed bodily representations?
E: They come from all sorts of things. I think about memory and time - I’ve been using my process as a metaphor for that. Like the strata of material or the repetition of form that i made in wire repeating itself like tree rings and growth. How someone can be so small and large. Or the echo of someone being in one space and not being in that space anymore. I think about the evolution of a moment and how I can represent that through forms. But I always go out to be in nature or people watch - I’m very observant and I think as artists we are porous and always trying to digest and do something with what we see and feel - I think that comes into play while thinking about abstraction. Also body memory. I’ve always danced and am very active, with a need to really move through space; I’ve realized that my forms sometimes look like the lower half of my body - like what the legs do in terms of weight and gravity -bending, arching, or in ballet, a plie or tendu. I’m realizing more and more that the body has a strong presence in my work and that leads to some narrative readings. I think I also develop my own languages I go in making work by repeating certain forms. Sometimes I’m specifically looking at things from everyday life because I think thats a healthy thing to do. I think i’m always starting from something but it gets very removed during the process. Then other times the material leads you to the form and you respond to what you make. But since I sometimes use found objects, I find these forms based on how they look and how they are weathered, and then respond to that.
A: I’m struck by how you brought up body memory. It makes me think of the way athletes improve partly because their body remembers how to move or hold their bats or gold clubs a certain way. The hand remembers.
A: What is your studio practice like? Do you work everyday?
E: Ideally its an everyday thing. I’m realizing this winter I’ve been working at home more at my kitchen table. But I sometimes ride my bike to the studio, or take the bus or the train - its close yet, far. I like my studio because of the way the light comes in. But its a beast of its own because its not quite working for me - i need a bigger space. And there are some basic logistics. I started teaching more classes than I normally do at Montclair state, so it depends on my routine. But i tend to make or think about ideas everyday. This winter has been a real thinking time for me. And the way I work I need quite a bit of energy. There is almost a burst of things that happen and I work on multiple things at once - small sculptures and drawings or larger sculptures. Lately I’ve been dividing my time between working in the studio and home.
A: There is something really nice about working from home. It’s intimate. There is something nice about seeing the piece in a home. I find that sometimes when I walk into a gallery I’m very aware of that cold space - for instance even if the work is great I can’t get lost in it because I cant disassociate the work from the white walls or someone making sure i’m not breathing too hard on the work. But some work really transcends and I wonder if that is affected by where the artist works. Like seeing the object you’ve made in relation to your chair or a coffee cup.
E: I think there is a strong relationship to where the artist works and the outcome. I’ve talked together artists about this. There is a period where I had my studio in my home and when my boyfriend was gone i would spread out everywhere and use every surface to work on including the ironing board. I had a few people over to the studio then and this one person really responded to how the work existed in the home. I had this library bench next to the couch with small sculptures on it in some sort of Freudian congregation. I had a sculpture next to my bed and it ended up becoming my nightstand. And i had an earplug left on the sculpture one day and it ended up fitting in this little nook in the sculpture - and that just blew me away! I kept it there. Then there was a period where I had these human scale sculptures and I took photographs of them in the apartment elevator. Like this experiment imagining they had a life of there own.
A: Like happenings in a way.
E: Yeah. There’s something exciting about that. Working at home is exciting and cozy. It’s a place where art and life can coexist more intensely.
A: There’s a certain level of guilt I feel sometimes in making things that are…essentially useless so its interesting to turn a sculpture into a nightstand or just seeing how we live with these objects.
E: I put that pressure on myself sometimes too - like “why am I making more things in this world?” but people have always made things to understand the world. Think about cave paintings and these rituals of beautifying the home. We need something physical to understand the world around us. I think as long as you’re kind of aware of the materials you’re using I think its a poetic and important act to make. I see artists as kinds of shamans. Like experimenting beyond the conventional world and beyond consumerism. Even though there is a strange art structure system around money that doesn’t really make sense. But the pursuit of being an artist is different than the market.
A: It’s related to but more than tagging graffiti on the table. Yes, its leaving your mark and putting your little footprint in the world but in a way its also for the artist his or herself. Its more than a fossil because it lives with the artist - and… I don’t know if ii agree with what I’m about to say but its almost going to…die with you.
E: In a sense it does. But it still remains physically. You
know over the years one of my many odd jobs has been working at an artist’s estate with the wife of someone who is maintaing the estate and the art and the provenance of the pieces and the people who’ve purchased them - its so intense. And i think about that - if I’m not here anymore what will happen to the work? Will it be a burden to someone? That’s a whole other strange thing. Its something you always have to keep in check.
A: did you start out painting and drawing?
E: yeah, but always wanting to do more. even in high school. making wall reliefs and sculpture. But in college I just couldn’t allow myself to just paint though I loved it. I was questioning things. I thought i had to do something more - that painting was too simple. stretching canvas on a surface, I just had to go beyond it. I related to Luciano Fontana, before I even knew about him, opening through the canvas getting to the space beyond the wall. just all those other relationships around the space of a painting, in addition to the painting, are so important to me. But now i think when i make a painting its all the more informed by the way i’ve questioned it. But I’ve also wished I was just a writer sometimes so i wouldn’t have to deal with these issues of the physicality of the things I make - there’s a responsibility and it’s not easy.
A: The idea of artist as shaman is interesting to me. I wonder if that is a possible role considering the abundance of images and art and information. Its difficult to put on your “art hat” when your surfing the internet its easy to just click a button to say oh cool, next, next, next but in a gallery you have to sort of put on your “art hat” and sit and look at a piece and even i find that I feel rushed and anxious when i try to just sit and look
E. I use the term kind of loosely, but i think that artists are at least trying to translate or observe whats happening in the world around them in a unique and generous way. Yeah i think there is a need and it does happen it just doesn’t always get the audience that it may need. That’s sad but it’s the reality of the world even outside of being an artist. It’s still a noble pursuit. Even if it is just to understand yourself. For me I just have to make art, I feel alive when i make it. It’s a way of having evidence of, and contemplating, and celebrating your own existence.
A: I agree. the struggle of making can give you a purpose. I guess even if your just a shaman of one thats still something.