Other Investigations: Erin Washington

Embracing materiality and labor I examine themes of vulnerability and permanence. Questioning how time structures transitions in ephemera, I create mixed-media paintings, drawings, and sculptures which unravel time through the performance of their making, and their subsequent degradation.

Chicago-based artist Erin Washington (previously featured on Make Space) talks about her practice after the break!

On materials and medium:

Process and materials are the arched backbone of my art. I use materials which contain elements of fragility or which I know will change over time. Moss, ash, bone, blackberries, seeds, dust, chalk, sugar, saliva…these are some of the materials I employ. With temporal materials, there is a heightened feeling that I am pointing at something important, that things are slipping away and we need to engage with this immediately.

The process aspect tells a story, its meditative labor that counter-balances the fugitive materials. The support provides the stage (or petridish) upon which those actions are incubated and indexed. I’ve always held tightly to the process of things: the process of telling a good story or the process of baking bread….I’m fascinated by the attention required to a series of incremental steps to produce a thing (a joke, a loaf, or a painting). Especially if the result is temporal, all that is left for grasping is the experience.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?

Carl Sagan (from the COSMOS series): I’m circling back around to looking at representations of the cosmos as surrogates for the unknown, the void. I like the friction that arises when you place the unknown with process and the bodily. Marc Maron (from the WTF podcast; he interviews comedians and they discuss their process), and Yayoi Kusama (killer artist).

On process and collecting:

In Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson has an extremely sweet extremely sad story about a doctor who is constantly writing his notes and thoughts and slipping the errata into his pockets where they are forgotten and wadded, rolling themselves up into little pills of paper. This is analagous to my process of collecting. My sketchbooks become siphons filled with quotes and excerpts and sketches from sci-fi books, b-movies, science theory, philosophy, stand-up comedy, graphic novels and overheard conversations. over time the sources fade and connections are made anew, I string the little pills of ideas together (although maybe mashing is more apt?). Collecting the physical materials is a similarly intuitive process of amassing and forgetting, intentionality without knowing the answer.

Projects bleed into eachother. Although they take different physical forms they all deal with similar themes and concepts. But also physically, I like when things drip and osmose onto eachother…a physical residue of touching.

On space and site:

Space is very important in my work. I think a lot about micro- and macrocosms in my work and how the viewer engages with objects from far away vs. close up…..Its almost a sculptural or time-based approach to building a piece, and then deciding how those pieces get installed. Most recently I showed at Plaines Projects; they have both first-floor and basement showing spaces which I decided to play with. I loved having two different environments within the same show, it really helped in orchestrating an experience.  As far as my studio-space…it looks like part kitchen, part lab, part hoarder’s nest….

I’m not sure geographic location is a direct aspect of my work. I like living in the city. But, growing up in the southwest, there was an idea of the western expanse and individual discovery that was still around. You could sit in the desert watching the stars and feel simultaneously heroic and insignificant. Clearly that dichotomy continues to be important for me.