For his recent exhibit at Goff+Rosenthal, “The Thin Ice of Modern Life,” artist Jeremy Earheart created a stunning black light landscape of hyperspectra, fantasmagoric homages to Young America. Using hand-cut plastic, string and paint, light is a variable medium that simultaneously “activates” and transforms the works. With a visual language ranging from eagle wings, canons, even Masonic symbols—Earheart the neon signs and symbols of America’s past and present.
What’s your creative process like, from the inception of an idea to its creation?
All the ideas for my work originate in my sketchbook. I’ll start from a small thumbnail drawing then through a process of adding and substracting, develop it into a larger drawing. Before I begin realizing the work in Plexiglas, I explore color relationships, play with the composition and develop the forms in drawing. This is just the very beginning of a long process that culminates in the work on view in the exhibition. It’s a process of give and take, I’m constantly changing and refining the work up until the very end.
You recently opened a new exhibition, entitled “The Thin Ice of Modern Life” at Goff+Rosenthal—a stunning black light visual landscape of sculptures. Can you talk a little bit about how these pieces- of hand-cut plastic, string, paint and light are created, and how they are transformed into these hyperspectra fantasmagoric visions?
I love process and the use of materials while learning different techniques. I’ve always been drawn to craft.In particular, I’m interested in taking all of these elements and trying to find a balance between the materials and the subject matter.
I hear you have a huge factory where all of the materials are stored—can you talk a little bit about what your studio is like? What’s a typical day of work there like for you?
It’s really not a huge space – I work out of a basement, though there are many compartments to the space. It’s kind of looks like a 70’s rec room.
I have several separate rooms for the different stages. I basically have a drawing room, a cutting room and a spraying room. Additionally, I have one large room where I can install the work and see it in all assembled.
Light (or black light) is obviously one element that is heavily considered within these works, as a catalyst or activating agent—can you talk about how light transforms these works?
Well they are both important and considered. Lighting creates a different mood –a push and pull of reality- and dream like state. I want the viewer to be enveloped in a sensory experience. Creating work that changes depending on the type of day or environment is an interesting thing. I want to make work that holds up in both situations whether its lit with UV blacklights or natural light.
The visuals remind me of childhood delights—from Space Mountain at Disneyland to glow in the dark planetary system stickers, or even kaleidoscopes or other such seemingly magical visual tropes. I read that you were fascinated by popular toys of the 1970’s—can you talk where the inspiration to create these works came from? And how they relate to these fantastical realms?
The materials I use such as plastic and paint probably stem more from my childhood. I grew up in the 70’s, most of my toys were plastic.I was huge fan of light–brite and view-master – toys that took me somewhere else. Or to put it another way, this again relates to my desire to recreate those feeling of displacement, to slow time.
I also read that they are in part inspired by the ambient of Brian Eno—an amazingly eccentric and avant-garde musician—is there a certain musicality within the works? Or what would lead you to draw that comparison?
To me there are some many similarities with music and art- or making things. To me the processes are very similar as is the product or outcome. Music has always one of those things I ‘ve gravitated to, due to its capacity to transport us to another space. I just chose the art path cause I was better at it. Many of my friends growing up were/are musicians and they could do it so much better. It’s one of the inspirations in the work. There’s not a specific piece music or musician, but Eno does get played in the studio a lot and I guess it slips in the work in some ways.
You also use historical symbolism within the works, “relics of Young America,” such as liberty bells, eagle wings, canons, even Masonic symbols—what drew you to these particular idioms?
I feel like this has been a big year in America. I’m drawn to the history of this country especially, the symbols of America. Religion is another area I’m particularly fascinated with. Its symbols, icons and the historical lineage it came from to be specific. The imagery/visual elements in this show are based on early America , religious icons, historical pattering, these elements vary in each piece –a dichotomy of symbols of the past and present
In one piece, you incorporate the All-Seeing Eye, featured on the dollar bill atop the pytamid—yet you set it amidst storm clouds and rain, rather than the traditional presentation. What drew you to this shrouded symbolism from America’s past?
I’m drawn to the perverse ways theses images/icons function in our cultural landscape. I’m interested in taking them out of their original context and displacing them to composes a new visual discourse.
Many of the works almost have a transcendent, baroque feeling in their bombast—motifs such as the fleur-de-lis, heavenly gates or other ornate patternings almost feel like a throw back to the exaltant mysticism of Bernini. Do you think this concept—whether magic, vision, mysticism, etc– enters into the works at all?
I think it does- I’m intrigued by it, religion is the same actually. The what if…
I’m really drawn to certain periods in history- whether its painting, architecture or craft and how I can change their meanings by tweaking the context their seen in.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m in the sketchbook stages of some new work.
For more info, visit: Jeremy Earhart
All images courtesy of the artist and Goff + Rosenthal.