Artist Chris Erickson finds new beginnings during stay-home period
Chris Erickson was likely the most-exhibited artist in the Aspen area for about a yearlong stretch that ended with the novel coronavirus shutdown.
The Carbondale-based sculptor and painter enjoyed a breakout fine-art run that included five exhibitions, among them his Odyssey Collective group show at the Red Brick Center for the Arts, the billboard-based “Imagine Climate” project launched by the Community Office of Resource Efficiency and a well-received solo exhibition at the new Straight Line Studio in Snowmass Village.
The works he’d been showing and selling included his ongoing “Mole©ules” and “superULTRAmega” series, the former a blend of cultural commentary with molecular imagery on irregularly shaped woodcuts and the latter more abstract paintings on wood.
“It was great and fun to deal with various art entities in the valley and get this momentum,” he said. “Then everything shut down. So it’s a little bittersweet.”
Though the Straight Line show ended early as the gallery shuttered in mid-March, Erickson had been planning for a quieter spring spent generating ideas for new work, while also finishing construction of his new home in Carbondale, which suited the stay-home period.
He expects he’ll end up responding to the pandemic in the “Mole©ules” series, in which he’s previously found clever and comedic ways to visually comment on socio-political issues in recent years. But it’s not yet directly showing up in his artwork.
“I’ve taken the isolation period seriously and basically spent all my time with one person, my girlfriend, so it’s really just emphasized our relationship,” he explained. “I think some of the work is reflecting that and the opportunity to get to know one person better.”
He’s stayed in touch with artist friends throughout the crisis, commiserating about their sometimes ambivalent or uninspired creative states as well as the struggle to sell art online.
“I go through this thing about art where it often feels self-indulgent and maybe narcissistic,” he said. “I go through that cycle of ‘What is the meaning?’ ‘What is the purpose?’ And I’m trying to infuse some kind of message for the greater good in it. That’s what I’m working out now: How to express some message or meaning that would resonate with how people are feeling right now.”
Erickson has applied for economic assistance, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but the COVID-19 lockdown also coincided with a planned slowdown of his exhibition schedule.
The larger economic struggle for Erickson is with his custom design and decor business, Prop, which depends largely on private parties and events for clients.
While working on the house through the stay-at-home period, he’s mostly focused on his creative energies sketchbook he always carries with him as he hasn’t had access to his usual creative bases. Erickson was in the process of moving out of his downvalley fabrication studio when the stay-at-home orders came down, and his painting studio at Carbondale’s Studio for Arts + Works closed due to the pandemic.
“It’s been disrupted but I’ve maintained a little bit of a normal routine with the sketchbook,” he said.
Without his usual tools, he’s also made forays into a new medium: Erickson has been making stop-motion animation films over the past two months.
The public is starting to get a virtual look at what he’s been developing in his sketchbook.
The local public health closures ended Erickson’s Straight Line show early, but the gallery has moved online with additional pieces for sale attuned to the ongoing virus-caused economic crisis.
The prices of Erickson’s new Straight Line work top out at $250. The pieces include small, 5-by-8-inch, black-and-white, ink-on-paper pieces from Erickson’s sketchbook and his “Boobs” series of resin-on-wood sculptural paintings.
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Jazz Aspen Snowmass will hosts its annual June Experience and JAS Cafe concert series in-person this summer, releasing details and lineups Monday.