Join artist Bob Erickson on Saturday June 25 form 4-5pm for a lecture on his work, more info here.
The way north is the way into the unknown - Herbert Read
In the spring of 2005, Bob spent two months at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation Artist in Rural Ireland Program. Based in Ballycastle on the Atlantic Ocean, in northwest County Mayo, the program offered Erickson the chance to immerse himself in a harsh and beautiful environment of peat, rock, fog, wind, and water. Erickson has an intuitive affinity for far northern places and felt intensely at home in Ballycastle. North represents an intensification or clarification of concepts and images he has long explored. Above all, his time in Ireland pushed him to ask, again, the questions of self, of art, and of place that lie at the heart of his creative process.
Erickson acknowledges his persistent fascination and affinity with the north. The artist has a fondness for the fields, forests and lakes of Central Wisconsin where he now resides, for the sterner landscape of northern Wisconsin where his family vacationed, and for the austere drama of the state’s cold, snowy winters. The rugged lands of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, Scotland, Ireland and Norway have all these elements in a more extreme and primal form. As he wandered the swamps, cliffs, old growth forests, riverbeds and high peaks he embraces the ancient history of these places that has been battered by weather for eons. These places have become catalysts for pushing his art, and stripping away some of the complexity of the layered, contemporary, American Midwest.
Erickson captures his experiences in prints and drawings of isolated, evocative, familiar yet unidentifiable objects: branches, mounds, piles, stacks, tangles, and skeins. As subjects, seen without the benefit of a relative point of comparison, they are almost impossible to identify as monumental or tiny. The original source could be a seedpod or a cloud, a sea stack or an ocean cliff. The confusion of scale happens no matter what the size of the art work: his prints range in dimension from six by six inches up to 43 x 53 inches. In their earth tones and mottled backgrounds, his works are infused with the passage of time, erosion, decay, and with processes that gather, organize and collect small pieces into larger accretions. Erickson revels in the multiplicity of association that his images evoke, hoping we will bring to them our own memories of dangling moss, hay stacks, dense forest leaves, fungi, or weird rocks distilled from wherever we find our spiritual connections in the natural world.
Each work of art occupies the artist in the same way a rare specimen fascinates a scientist or a beautiful object delights a collector. We read the surface of the print or drawing as a field of experience or a window that connects, in Western culture, to a landscape. Erickson wants to preserve the connection to the earth, to the ground we walk upon, to the time scale we understand. These may be ancient things, odd and unidentified, but they coexist with human time and space.
Erickson’s recent prints use digital processes based from his ink drawings on translucent Mylar sheets. These drawings are then layered and scanned. The resulting images are manipulated digitally and printed on various types of papers. Often handwork such as charcoal, ink or pastel is added. Additionally, this may include dying the prints in coffee, ink or powdered graphite washes to create an earthy patina on the paper.
In making an image, he creates an experience of a thing unique to that work of art. His marks engage the control of decades of training but also employ chance events of ink, charcoal or the digital scanner. He intends his creative process to emulate the processes happening on the shore, along the road, or in the woods. Each piece is an experiment or an investigation and when it succeeds, the art is the record of the questions asked that day. He challenges himself by trying new techniques, working bigger or smaller than he is comfortable, modeling the form in new ways, and seeking alternatives to his usual way of seeing the object in space. He knows that through these challenges come happy accidents and calculated transformations.
Some of Erickson’s works evoke columns of smoke, leaves, or cairns of piled stone. In nature these bind together with complex physics. There is an order to the way the physical objects hang together. And as their order becomes apparent in Erickson’s image, we can hover in the moment before the smoke will vanish, the leaves will die and the stones will tumble. In each finished work of art, Erickson gives us something that can never be finished or could be there forever, that is always becoming something else or will never change. He gives us the concrete and the ephemeral, the thing itself and its emotional resonance. He creates a place he will return to again and again with his body as he makes art, and with his spirit as he tries to snag his memories of all that is ancient, fading, reappearing and stubbornly persisting through the ages. - Lesley Wright, Director, Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinell, Iowa
In addition to his exhibition, Erickson will be lending his talents to judging our summer themed exhibition: Branches, Brambles and Roots, more information here.
For more info on Bob Erickson click here
Gallery Hours are Saturday through Tuesday 9am - 5pm, Wednesday - Friday 9am - 9pm