The Artist's Gaze: Erica Elan Ciganek
What compels you to the specific women you choose to paint?
I choose to paint women who I know in some way. It is important to me that I be familiar with my subjects on a relational level prior to painting them, this impacts the process significantly. I am not merely contemplating a visual subject but an emotional and spiritual human.
When do you know you have made a significant connection to your subject and what does that feel or look like from your perspective?
There is a moment in each painting where something is happening that feels it is beyond my control. That all of the sudden something has come into being that I could not have predicted or chosen, but has presented itself as existing. It is in that shift that I feel like the deep observation of someone has allowed me to connect with them in a mysterious way.
Tell us about a strong reaction you have received to your work and the impact you sense it has made on the subject, viewer or the greater cultural landscape.
It was during the painting of "Wait" that someone observed and said it offered the experience of being alone with someone. This experience of course is unattainable, but moved me that they would suggest that. I had recently begun to focus on painting the subjects with their eyes closed due to it seeming less confrontational and more invitational. This reaction was powerful and encouraging because it spoke of a moment of intimacy that I hope allows us to engage people on a deeper level.
What is it about your personal journey that has brought your gaze to focus so deeply on women.
I have grown up around very strong women who have mentored, empowered, and taught in countless ways. I predominantly paint women because of the deep impact they have in my life, as well as a desire to continue to learn to truly see women in a culture that has skewed lenses and expectations of doing so.
Why this visual dialogue? What do you hope to accomplish through your work?
I hope to emphasize the transformational power of seeing someone. I also hope to pursue humility toward the subject.
How does your subject make a change in your artist's gaze?
I desire for the subject to determine the piece that emerges. The more I can intimately look at the colors and shapes and movements of the skin, folds, or shifts in tone, I can allow the subject to speak. The subject creates mystery for me in the entire process of painting.
Tell us about your current series or work and how it may be different from the work submitted for the show.
I am currently exploring the use of more water obscuring the face in portraits paired with a darker ambiguous background.