Erin Elizabeth Adams
I am an interdisciplinary artist. I work with collage, painting, video, assemblage and installation. My work explores the origins of,
and reality of, my identity as a queer feminist white woman, my choice to parent two adopted Black sons, and the influences of our
city, Los Angeles.
Using large scale, hand sourced, street advertising posters, banners and found objects, I have intertwine materials
often painting landscapes and figures, or projecting videos on my re-imagined environments. My work zooms into contemporary culture as well as personal myths with themes ranging from ecology, queer life, my mixed race family, and social issues.
As the art world has become more diverse, I have immersed myself in my art practice even more. My work springs from what I experience every day, as I obsessively scavenge and collect my materials from the wealth of leftovers in the streets. Scanning for street advertising posters, construction materials, and found objects, I am also influenced by the abundance of relatable film, sound and online stimuli. I’m currently working with ideas of ephemerality, futurism, escapism and conspicuous family.
I make expressionistic paintings and drawings that embrace the irrational. The imagery in these works derives from the subconscious and is often characterized by grotesque attributes such as doubleness, hybridity and metamorphosis. Paintings are begun without predetermined ideas. Through a process of gestural mark-making and ‘playing around’, images suggest themselves and are developed. This approach to image making seeks to enable apophenia, the tendency to perceive connection or meaningful patterns within random data. I think of my paintings as ecosystems that evolve according to their own laws of nature. Subjects in the work are not always defined and the viewer is invited to develop their own rationale as to what is occurring within the picture. Despite being an atheist I’ve always been drawn to religious art, mythology and symbolism. I’m very attracted to the idea that images can be invested with power or magic even though this probably isn’t the case. For me, the painting ritual is a form of revelry that I take great pleasure in. I’m curious about the desire that drives humans to want to make images.
I also make narrative sculpture and video work based on rumors, scandal and innuendo from the world of entertainment. I’m interested in Schadenfreude and the grotesque in the context of how audiences consume entertainment. I consider these works a form of fan art or unauthorized memorabilia that use already existing narratives and associated baggage and question what it means to be amused. This side of my practice is informed by the carnivalesque notion that it is a fundamental human right to participate in the never-ending human comedy.
My artwork, through intimate and historical lens, examines the search for oneself within the context of displacement. My family and I moved from Hyogo, Japan, to Honolulu, Hawai‘i when I was a child. While much of Japan’s mannerisms have become distant to me, they still feel familiar and nostalgic. Even as I grow accustomed to being in America, it can still feel foreign. This uneasy shift of relocation has contributed to my fascination with Japan and its relationship with the West.
The references in my works are intentionally subtle, as I create a new personal language through abstraction, problem solving color, mark-making, and process. Painting ultimately expresses the intangible and possibilities within an image. The tension created through the marks has become a representation of existing between cultures and ideas.
Through performance, installation, video, photographic documentation, viewer interactions, and social practice I create situations that provide audience members the opportunity to experience very private moments in very public situations. Thematically, my projects address ideas of service, perception, liberation, privacy, power, and labor by utilizing my employment as research to inform my art practice. Having dissected my careers as a professional cabinetmaker, busboy, locksmith, and yoga-teacher, I utilize the under-appreciated aspects of human existence – such as furniture, locks, teachers, and service professionals – as raw material to craft my artistic experiences. Most recently from 2011-2017 I worked behind the scenes as a labourer in the adult-fetish-film industry spawning an artistic investigation into the intimacy-of-the-self through the lens of judgement, privacy, commerce, and the utility of the body as a tool of capitalism. In 2002 I received my BFA with honors from the New Genres department of The San Francisco Art Institute. My work has been displayed extensively nationally and internationally in performance, gallery, public, and museum contexts and has been reviewed in Art Forum, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. Selected exhibitions include Conflux, New York City; Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles; 826 Valencia Street, San Francisco; Portland State University, Portland, OR; and S.M.A.K (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art), Ghent, Belgium. In 2010 I was an artist in residency with Vooruit Center for the Arts in Ghent, Belgium. Two of my photographs are housed in The Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent collection. From March 2018-September 2019 I was an artist in residence at Grand Central Art Center at Cal State, Fullerton funded through a generous grant from the Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.
Integrity to the state of discomfort is one of my highest compositional value. It is how I discover the sculptural form inside my medium and the way that I loosen my creatures from the grip of motionlessness. Masters, such as Michelangelo, believed themselves to be aware of an immobilized being embedded into their medium. The sculptor became the privileged midwife of releasing a figure from its physical bondage, surface, and landscape. But what if the object became caught between the world of its medium and the final destination of its form? This question both fascinates and excites me. My Uncomfortable Creatures explore this intention. A type of sculptural purgatory.
I grew up in a lineage of woman that passed on the knowledge of weaving. Whether that be through thread, fabric, or yarn the women in my family have been tied to this idea of entwining. Weaving became the aspect of tending to their homes and families. The craft functioned to bring about basic necessities such as clothing, comfort, and keeping loved ones warm. These became a part of the covering of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. But the women in my family not only share a history of weaving but also of sexual violence. I too became a part of this story and a silent weaver. As the fabric continued to be bound, I began to consider the process of binding, or mending. My Uncomfortable Creatures are made safe by their bondage, and also are trapped by it. The surfaces of my creatures speak to that testament. Forms that are undefinable in their pain, their struggle to emerge, but coated in this soft skin of warmth.
My sculptures all contain found objects within which I exploit to aid the appearance of distress that the creature is both encompassed and engulfed by. The visual effects are highlighted through the yarn that is applied around the surface of the form. This mended exterior creates a language to read the beings. It guides the eye in the exploration of objects, interruption that protrude from the form, and the tension of the creature’s integrated landscape. I consider these materials to speak to my historical environment of womanhood, while also addressing the idea of bondage, or sculptural purgatory.