How did you first get involved in art?
I grew up in a rural country town in Wisconsin, so there wasn’t much of an art community around. I liked drawing but as I got older it was pushed to the wayside so I could pursue different interests. It wasn’t until I went to get my degree in Science and began to fill my electives with drawing and painting courses that I realized what I was really passionate about. If it wasn’t for my art teachers and the encouragement they offered I’d probably still be a mechanic of some sort, unaware of my potential in the arts.
What is your academic history? Do you have any art-training?
As of right now I only have my Associates in Arts and Science from University of Wisconsin-Rock County but am only one semester away from graduating with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. My background actually consists more of auto mechanics and construction than art because of the lack of arts in the area I grew up in. Since I will be graduating this Fall semester I will be applying to graduate schools this year in order to pursue my Masters in Fine Art.
Would you credit the development of your aesthetic, style, or themes to your background in mechanics?
Definitely. Working on cars was a passion of mine growing up and something I knew I was going to do as a job, so when I decided to pursue being an artist my interest in cars never fell too far behind. Having that background also gave me a great appreciation for working with my hands and taking pride in doing everything on my own if possible. This eventually led me to get into construction, concrete work, and basically any other skill I could learn while working on my house. I believe a lot of my interests and knowledge in that type of work actually shows through in my most recent artwork dealing with different types of materials. Looking back, it all seems to stem from the skills I learned as a mechanic and I’m actually grateful that my past is generally considered atypical of most artists.
Where & from whom do you draw inspiration?
I have always been fascinated by inherently broken material and find beauty in imperfections. I find a lot of inspiration from objects in my everyday life that show wear and signs of use. I’m always noticing how different materials withstand the test of time and what effect the deterioration, wear, maintenance, and repair of these things has on how long they last. To me, these materials relate to our own bodies and show a lot of the same characteristics as they wear down. Our bodies are under constant stress and require maintenance throughout our lives. Just like any other material object that needs maintenance, how we decide to deal with issues that arise has a major effect on how long our bodies will be deemed useful.
Some of my favorite artists are Mark Rothko, Anish Kapoor, and Jannis Kounellis. Although I’ve become more drawn to non-objective art over the years, I will always have a passion for academic figure drawing. I regularly attend community figure drawing and I still look towards figurative artists like Dan Thompson, Angela Cunningham, and Colleen Barry when I need other inspiration.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
I regularly search calls for art and noticed the Putting It Together: The Art Of Assembling show. I looked at the images of the gallery and just knew this was a place I wanted my work hung. The building and galleries are amazingly beautiful and I am extremely thankful to be included in the show.
What are you currently working on?
My current work examines how certain materials handle deterioration and constant stress. Most recently, I have been working with different types of paper and have been pushing the limits of what it can withstand. Through the process of deterioration and the mishandling of my work, every mark and blemish becomes a road map to each piece’s past and what it has endured. To me, that’s the beauty of life and what I want to convey in my work.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
I use everyday materials in my work to represent the trials and tribulations we go through in our everyday lives. I reference how our bodies wear down and are constantly changing over time. They have to withstand constant use and we tend to abuse them, but hopefully we all take steps to make sure they last as long as possible. I think this really connects with people as they go through their own lives and notice these changes and adaptations in themselves.
I create art for the simple fact that it makes me contemplate and question everything around me. It pushes me to research and try to understand the world around me in a more intimate way. I’m constantly learning new things and gaining new insights by delving into subjects and trying to understand them enough to express them without words.
When you aren't creating art or in school, what do you enjoy doing?
I am constantly renovating my house and enjoy doing a lot of the work myself. Other than that I have a ten year old daughter that keeps me pretty busy. We spend a lot of time together in the studio doing little art and science projects, otherwise we like to go on bike rides and visit antique shops.
You can view two of Eric's compositions through September 23 in our galleries as part of "Putting It Together: The Art of Assembling".
Article by Jillian Schoettle.