Painting on header: Felix | oil on copper | 6 x 9 inches | 2016
Erin what made you decide to try out painting on copper?
I was searching for a way to express the intangibles that affect our experiences. I always felt that the use of light was a perfect analogy for this. At first I experimented with different ways to throw light in and around the model during reference shoots. I used different color lenses to create mood, passed light through prisms to cast abstract light patterns surrounding the figure. These concepts had their merits but I felt the results in paint were a little lackluster. I moved on to experimenting with substrates or materials that had reflective properties and finally settled on copper. There are a lot of desirable benefits to working on copper but the main advantage to me is the specificity with which you can scatter light and create movement within a composition.
Are you the photographer in your works then? Or do you have someone else do the shoots?
I do all the shoots myself. It's typically just myself and the model.
What was your inspiration behind the portraits of Felix?
My inspiration always starts with the model. I take a lot of cues from what I pick up about them during our photo shoot (or shoots). I've worked with Felix off and on for a couple of years now and he's always filled with a very easy-going positive energy that I'm drawn to. On top of it he's an actor and fellow artist himself.
Early on in our collaboration he told me about his drag persona named "Koko". I got to meet her one night, albeit briefly, at an art event in downtown Bethlehem and she was fabulous! During the shoot intended for this particular series of him, I asked that he pose as Felix and then also pose with traces of Koko. My intention was to portray him as a blend of the two.
Do you think Koko may one day to sit for you? I would love to meet Koko through your art. Tell us a little about your previous series.
I think anything is possible! She may yet show up one of these days....
My last series was called The Human System. The series comprised of 14 paintings of six individuals. My inspiration behind them came from my reflections on isolation in modern society. I feel with the rise of technology and distancing from nature, people today have become more isolated from each other as well as the environment. We have extraordinary technology meant to facilitate communication and yet meaningful interpersonal communication and relationship building seems to be falling more along the wayside. Similarly, we learn of impending environmental crisis and global warming everyday yet we are more isolated from nature than ever. Despite our understanding that we've had catastrophic effects on the environment, we still cling to outdated paradigms and perceive ourselves as separate.
In this body of work, I tried to balance the juxtaposition between isolation and connectivity within the context of systems in nature. Each piece features a singular portrait within the picture plane. Insinuated is the popular idea that we are separate individuals whose thoughts and feelings are contained within the confines of our own skin. Surrounding the painted figure, I created dynamic environments in which they exist and took visual cues from systems in nature to inform how I built atmosphere. Visual references from wind patterns to water currents informed my creation of biomorphic imagery etched into copper.
The natural world is a prime example of connectivity. There is no such thing as isolation in an ocean current and the wind doesn’t blow differently just because it’s reaching the state line. With this in mind, I designed the show so that although there is only one portrait per panel, each panel shares a copper design that flows continuously to link them together.
How do you feel about artist statements? What is your artist statement?
I have mixed feelings on artist statements. On one hand, they're an important exercise in understanding the motivations behind your own work. There's something about sitting down and having to find the right words to try and explain what you do to someone else that solidifies it in your own mind. On the other hand, they can feel limiting, as though future work should fit within the parameters of an existing statement. I've revised my own statement many times and expect it will be revised more in the years to come. An artist's work evolves and so it's my feeling that a statement should evolve to reflect the current pursuits/interests of the artist.
I am inspired by complex dynamics and relationships within individuals and groups. Working on copper sheet, my compositions remain anchored in representational figure painting juxtaposed by abstraction. The metal substrate and paint work in concert to communicate layers or levels of reality: one that is easily perceived and directly in front of us and one that can be felt and is dynamic or changing. To explore the connective nature of our experience, I make visual comparisons between the figure and systems in nature. I find that studying the ways in which nature is connected informs the ways I create atmosphere within and around my subjects. The ensuing work is an exploration of our relationships to one another and our fundamental connection with the environment.
September 6, 2016 Update: Erin Anderson's FELIX will be gracing the cover of Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine November edition. Make sure to pick up a copy and find out more about Chevere!!