As part of the upcoming grand opening of the new 1120 Creative House, Spaceworks has commissioned Artist and illustrator Erika Rier to activate 50ft of window space overlooking Commerce Street. Her installation, Mythic Ephemera, consists of seven large, exquisitely detailed paper dolls, numerous floating illustrations, and hand painted designs directly on the glass. Erika has shown extensively throughout the Northwest and around the country, using both traditional and non-traditional methods. Spaceworks caught up with Erika mid-installation to talk about her project:
Spaceworks: So, how long have you lived in Tacoma?
Erika Rier: I’ve lived in Tacoma for 3 years now, I have lived all over the place at this point. I was born in Maine and have lived in Connecticut, Vermont, Brooklyn, NY, and Arizona before moving here. I like to say that I’m on a very slow road trip.
SW: How does the piece you’re working on in 1120 fit in with your other work? What are common concepts/themes/feeling you work with? Are there any artists whose work you’ve been heavily inspired by? Where do you draw inspiration from?
ER: My piece at 1120, titled Mythic Ephemera, is easily the largest piece I’ve ever attempted. My work is mostly drawing and illustration and usually on paper measuring at its largest 28″ x 38″. That being said, the figures, creatures, and patterns in Mythic Ephemera directly draw from my smaller work. (I’ve attached a few pieces of my regular work as well). Lately, I have been drawing a lot of women who are hybrid creatures. Lots of satyr, centaur, butterfly, and bears stitched together with female figures. I have also been drawing a lot of struggles, battles, and escapes. Mythic Ephemera only vaguely alludes to struggle in that a few of the figures brandish a sword or a bow & arrow, one figure even holds the head of Medusa.
The artists that have influenced me most heavily are a few female surrealists. Namely, Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varo. I have been fascinated by these women’s paintings, and in some cases writing, since I was a teenager. Another huge influence are Persian miniature paintings and Hindu devotional art.
On a daily basis, I find inspiration in my daily walks where I’m constantly looking at plants and moss and animals. I also read a lot of art and illustration blogs just to keep up with what else is going on in the world.
SW: I know that the physical space at 1120 is an odd one to work in, and you’re the first person to install there! How did you contend with the unconventional space? Was the piece you ended up installing made specifically for 1120?
ER: It is an interesting space! Originally, when I had applied to the Spaceworks Artscape program, I had thought I’d be installing in the Woolworth building. Those windows are much smaller and have a back wall, they’re almost like giant shadowboxes. When I was approached for 1120, I was at first overwhelmed by the size of the windows and the fact that the art was visible for both front and back. It was clear right away that my original Artscape idea was not going to work in 1120. I started messing around in my sketchbook and pretty quickly came up with the concept of paper dolls & painted windows. This solution seemed best suited for the space and would be visible from both sides.
The challenge for me was the short time frame to produce the installation. The dolls are drawn by hand and colored by hand. I saved myself time by designing pattern repeats, which I had printed to rolls of paper so that I would not have to pattern the backs of the dolls by hand. This not only saved me time but also made it so the backs are super bright and bring some color into the project overall.
I did make this piece specifically from 1120. I’ve never made anything like this before. I had never even make a normal, small jointed paper doll before I created this project. Now, of course, I have more ideas for future installations expanding on this idea.
SW: What other projects are you working on now? Where can we find your work in Tacoma?
Currently, you can find my work at Nearsighted Narwhal. They have some small original work, comics, and paper goods by me. Other than them them I have not had much luck showing my work in Tacoma unfortunately. Most of my shows happen in Seattle or further afield. I’ll be in a group show at Ghost Gallery starting this month and will be in a 3-person show in Phinney Ridge [Seattle] next month. I’ll also be selling art, paper goods, and soft toys at the UPS 2015 Fieldhouse Flea Market.
I’m also planning on producing a small booklet of the paper dolls from the show that people can make at home!