Studio Visit: Erin Washington

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Erin Washington‘s studio is in a familiar place in the West Loop area–where parking does not exist and people graze the streets on nights with a particularly large number of openings. Erin is in the process of moving to a new studio–the one she resides in now is a large open style studio with dividing drywall, obviously a shared space with at least a couple artists in close proximity. On a far wall there are hanging images above a table full of notes, coffee stains, and a book on stars. Together they carry some distinct remnant  of work, or time, or most importantly, Washington herself.

As Erin finishes boiling water for some tea she talks of her interest in the fleeting and ephemeral. Quickly the conversation turns to her background–to no surprise a scientific background. Washington started her undergraduate as a premed student. She recalls loving science but feeling a sense of discontent with the literal means of memorizing the body and the chemicals that course through those nerves to answer questions–not unlike the one she was answering. Washington is not interested in discovering how thoughts literally derive from these chemicals, she is more interested in the abstract: chemicals as thoughts.

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For Washington examining the world is found both in the personal and the larger existential realm. She talks of the ‘everyday’ being an influence–that in the examination of the day to day you can find inspiration. With a chuckle, Erin makes a joke about how easy it is to be inspired if you think about Carl Sagan everyday. It is hard not to notice the strange contrast between her seemingly humorous and optimistic attitude and the six small black paintings she is sitting in front of. Washington says she wants keep trying to figure out how to keep her work experimental and playful as she deals with these deep issues of time, meaning, and existence. She believes humor is a very important part–and I agree. Especially when Erin starts asking, not only what we can believe in but if we can even believe in the first place. Erin really doesn’t think there is a real way to know. Perhaps that is where art making exists. Perhaps today Erin will wipe off the ‘yes’ on her chalk painting and write ‘no’.

When asked about being an artist in Chicago, Erin stated that she used to believe that this was a stop on the way to NYC or LA but the longer she stays here the more she finds it to be conducive to her as an artist. She believes that Chicago is better for more academic artists who are not making explicit product. Washington appreciates that she can be an academic ephemeral artist in Chicago and can still afford suitable studio space.