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Erica Eaton

Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT

I value art for its ability to create a kind of knowledge. Art allows us to look at something in a new way. I do not set out to represent what is already known, but to look at what is there through different lenses. Art can tell stories that otherwise remain untold. We are able to say things that would otherwise be unspeakable and hear from multiple perspectives. Art is a way to test a thesis. As often as not I am faced with an opening of possibilities rather than any definite conclusion. Time based and installation works draw us into these possibilities using sound, light, space and motion. Visual associations create meaning using histories, dreams, visions and emotion. The marrying of these elements in unexpected juxtapositions can destabilize the compulsion to stay with the familiar and allow the incomplete and uncertain to be savored and explored…

My work attempts to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. I am fascinated with how people make meaning, and how that meaning is applied in our lived lives. At its core my work deals with the relationships between memory, nostalgia and meaning and how this complex web plays out socially, politically and emotionally. At its most obvious, my work deals with issues that I am passionate and curious about: race, gender, sexual orientation, class, mass amnesia, the effects of new technologies on our collective consciousness and visions for creating new possibilities.

My philosophy informs my practice…

“... the function of art is to do more than tell it like it is—it’s to imagine what is possible.” bell hooks envisions art in the way that I embrace my role as an advisor-as an engaged, dynamic practice. My work is grounded in the experience that learning is interactive. Transformative learning is most likely to occur when we are personally engaged with the material and perceive the subject matter to be directly relevant to our own lives. I work with students to contextualize their work within the world.

I have often said that what I really do is translate, remind people of what they already know and empower them to use it and develop it further. I facilitate. I see my role as a “teacher” in a similar fashion. I am not there to “deposit” knowledge, but to co-create it. . This is an interactive process that involves discussion, reflection and action. It begins with questioning what we “know” and continues with an acting out our preoccupations and curiosities. How did we come to know what we believe to be true? How can we expand our signifying systems?

Other interests: I have practiced social work in residential centers and city schools for the past 17 years. I will be moving these skills in 07-08, to commit more time to working at the college level and to give more time to my own practice. I am also the founder and director of an international artist and activist group, the Evolutionary Girls Club. The group is an inclusive group of artists and activists. Anyone can join. The name is a play on the old boys club. Wo(men) have been represented by male verbage throughout (his)story. The “boys” get to be honorary “girls” for a change.

We have done shows in many countries around the world, usually as fundraisers or in conjunction with events that take on social issues. The group has published compilations and books. We are working on obtaining a space that would also function as a community arts center/gallery in the city where I currently reside, Rochester, NY.

Educational Background:

PhD in American Studies, University at Buffalo; MFA in Media Studies, University at Buffalo. MSW in Social Work, Syracuse University; BS in Social Work, Nazareth College.