Erika Kari McCarthy, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Erika some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: Tell us about your background.
I grew up north of Albany in Halfmoon, NY and realized that art was a huge passion of mine when I attended the New York Summer School of the Arts as a high schooler. I ended up going to RIT to study art, originally as an illustration major before I realized my true niche was in Fine Arts. I now work for the Byrdcliffe Arts Guild in Woodstock, NY where I help manage their Artist in Residence program.
Q: How would you describe your work?
I am obsessed with the human body and physical presence, and work compulsively to dig into this obsession. I work with a wide variety of tactile materials, from human hair to sleeping bags and cast ashes. The objects and environments I create are efforts to solidify the ephemeral nebulous of ever-changing nonsense in my brain and emotional state.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I work haptically and thrive in chaos. I like to say that I somersault into my studio and work on anything I bump into, because often times thats what it feels like. I work sporadically, jumping from one task to the next project and changing direction when I need to, but I’m always working.
Q: Do you collect anything?
YES. I am a chronic treasure hunter, from thrift stores to flea markets, lost items on the sidewalk to anything interesting in my own back yard, I’m always collecting objects that inspire me in one way or another. It started with picking up broken fragments of glass scattered on the street as if they were lost diamonds. I just collected a jar full of dried “husk tomatoes”, a gossamer weed I found in South Carolina. While living on a mountain in the Catskills I would wake to a cluster of dead moths on my doorstep every morning; I placed them in Petri dishes in my studio and drew and sculpted from them. They’re all part of my research.
Q: What type of music do you listen to and how does music affect your artwork?
I listen to just about everything, preferably through the interface of radio. Radio is one of the few media sources we still have that isn’t directed by algorithms that follow your choices and predict your next move. I love that I can turn on the radio and listen to whatever is most popular in the geographic area I’m in at the time; I start with a clean slate every time I turn on the radio, unencumbered by past choices. I flip through the stations and chose what feels right for the mood I’m trying to create and the work I’m developing.
Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
The best way to see art is to open your eyes. There’s so much all around us to be amazed by if you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to appreciate it. As far as art museums go, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Dia:Beacon, and MassMOCA are some of my favorites.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Like many female sculptors, I am in love with the work of Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois for their sincerity in creating real objects that impact the viewer’s emotional state. I am drawn to artists who kept good notes or used writing as a significant part of their process, such as Basquiat, Yoko Ono, and Sol Lewitt. Words are a huge facet of my visual mind and I am always eager to collect new linguistic sensations.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’m eager to set my hands to work and make everything I am capable of making. My most recent works have been constructed with copper wire and sheer bandaids to create lantern-like objects. I’ve been delving deeper into studying anatomy diagrams as inspiration for the forms I’m developing.
Q: What’s next for you?
Many things! I’m beginning to consider various MFA programs but in the most near future I’ll be road tripping traveling around the country with my sketchbook.