EILEEN RAE WALSH

CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

ERW: Most of the outward facing work I make involves an image-based practice. These works reflect studies of abstraction, the sensorium, photography, and the sublime. But the deep heart of it is my interest in the misuse of those histories, a very wobbly and sensual questioning of home, and the dissolution of the ego through fantasy. 

ERW: My studios currently include: walking, the kitchen, my tub, my porch and my sunroom. I write, I teach (while also being a lifelong student), and I organize moments of social togetherness in the form of critiques, dinners and workshops. I consider my mediums to be fluid, each benefiting from the space between, from moments of intersection, and my personal longing for them to be more similar rather than more different*. (*more different is a term Efrem Zelony-Mindell recently used to describe a part of my practice, that I am now borrowing after picking their brain about it. They are also a magical person in my life: as a friend, collaborator, curator, writer….and artist themselves.)

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

ERW: The individuals I love, poetry, walks after a downpour: the wet petals of roses and the acidic smell of after-rain. Dreaming. What it looks like when you press your fingers into your eyes when they are closed, and then open them. Enhanced images of things we can’t optically grasp otherwise, really: the cosmos, microbiology, deep sea, storms. And what things looked like through the sides of my goggles under water as a child.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

ERW: It feels like trying to get closer to a feeling, one that is vibrating but, I don’t linguistically understand yet. A lot of circling around something tenderly, with care and curiosity. It feels more like swimming than digging. Like watching a shape constantly shift forms before fixing it.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

ERW: I want expectations and boundaries to be reconsidered, I want to burst something open.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

ERW: I am deeply tied to ritual. I like to return to something again and again because it marks time, but most importantly, meaning. 

ERW: I spend a lot of time seeking moments of extreme feeling. I run a lot, because I like to test the limits of my body and also because it is something that allows me to fantasize and rush through wild ideas without immediately critiquing them. 

ERW: I spend a lot of time keeping in touch with my loved ones and trying to find ways to have intimate experiences with my friends. I recently got a postcard in the mail from a friend who said they think of me when they lay on their hammock and see the sky, when they eat a peach, when they see their green onions growing on their windowsill in the sun, and when they bake chicken thighs. That is a very good list of things that are a ‘part of my lifestyle’ as an artist: the sky, pitted fruit, plants and cooking. It is about making exquisite experiences with whatever I have, and hopefully, sharing them.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

ERW: I think it is really important to spend a lot of time tending to the deep cuts of your heart, to spend time getting to know yourself, & what you might desire (leaving room for surprise, and growth, and adapting). After that, both approaches are really valuable to me. And the success or failure of either depends on the care I give the result. I think it depends on what is limiting you, at the time, deciding which type of direction to go. Keeping boundaries not too hard, not too soft…allowing room for play. Allowing room for noticing. Both are incredible experiments. It is about: what do I need? How do I get there? A list of instructions that I need to follow? (Lately, I need a lot of that.) Or a moment to fantasize and act on impulse to achieve growth?

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

ERW: Being an artist, having a practice, it has to serve you before it can serve others. If it isn’t in your heart, moving around, first – you’ve lost something. Also, capitalist modes of production are toxic, and the support I need comes from finding people who gravitate towards the things I care about. I am not for everyone, and realizing that is, was — liberating. 

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

ERW: I regard the ability to feel yourself, to feel good through the expression of who you are in a moment, to be of the highest importance. And I think of that space as very fluid. I prioritize pleasure, and yeah, style and taste often bring me great joy. It feels sticky to me, though. On one hand, it feels about celebration. On the other, it makes me feel uneasy, like when style & taste become exclusively tied to access and wealth.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

ERW: The pressure of ‘success,’ especially one that exists in a capitalist society. And juggling all the things we (I) have to do to make money and survive, while finding the time to tend to my projects. And not only find time for them, but be able to approach them with curiosity and tenderness, for the practice to set the pace rather than a deadline or an exterior set of pressures. 

ERW: I think this is largely a part of the current conversation (which I have many thoughts around, but): Most institutions (especially those that claim to support artists) are failing (well, perhaps they are succeeding at what they are supposed to do)…We saw MANY individuals, groups, institutions- turn to artists at the start of the pandemic. We saw a lot of language around the ‘creative opportunities’ we are / were being presented. I find this language and perception to be very toxic. We saw many artists, including myself, refuse the narrative that we should all emerge with a novel, a new project, etc. Continuing to fight the institutional voices of expectation and unlearn these toxic demands and forms of manipulation is a very difficult and active part of the work I am trying to do right now.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

ERW: The amount of incredible characters I have been able to meet by being one. That they are usually of a type of person that knows what it means to be in love with all of your friends. These friendships, these relationships: they exist in deep, wild, fluid and trashing ways that leave me in awe. It is these people who teach me that the heart and mind can always open up a little bit more, again, and again, and again, and again…and at the end of the day, that feeling of opening…is probably all I care about.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

ERW: There are so many.

ERW: These are the three books in my everyday tote bag right now:

  1. Gender Fail: An Anthology on Failure 2, Building on our Failed States.
  2. Clarice Lispector: The Stream of Life
  3. A Queer Anthology of Healing, Pilot Press

ERW: These are the last three artists in my browser history:

  1. Rinko Kawauchi
  2. Lieko Shiga (Canary project)
  3. Rose Lowder (Bouquets) 

ERW: Anything I am drawn to has an aspect of vulnerability, of the personal as a through-string that reaches all the way out to the cosmos and back, and weaves through the between space, taking bites. 

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

ERW: I think I am currently a teacher who is on zoom from 12pm to 9:45pm, and outside that I might find it incredibly useful and freeing and full of connectivity potential, but right now it is actively keeping me from being able to be present with my practice. I mean, I am an artist that values the tactility of physical prints, I cherish the rice paper and its translucency and the way it feels pinched between my two fingers. I have sort of given up on this being able to translate on the internet. And I am not yet in the realm of *web experience*…any time I want to redesign my website to reflect my practice better it feels like an art project in and of itself, and I don’t have the tools to make it or keep up with it as I move and change. Those that do, I admire. And want to collaborate with and learn from. But mostly, lately, I want to throw my devices off the balcony, brush my hands, and not worry about them ever again.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

ERW: Well, sure. But I am disinterested in the binary of artist and non-artist. Or creative and non-creative. I also think the idea that artists provide a less urgent or practical need in the world than those ‘outside of the artists’ is a thinly veiled refusal of meaning and labor that falls outside of capitalist structures. AND, those structures were not built to hold most artists. And when they begin publicly failing, it is very clear who they turn too…Artists can re-imagine. Artists can build, and often do, the thing where there is a hole. They can move the periphery into very clear focus. They can hold many things at once. It doesn’t mean they should have to. But they do, often.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

ERW: I have a really painful unrequited love for New York City. Yes, I love traveling. My practice relies on the ability to travel (even if it is to an imaginary dimension). I feel like I have spent much of my life using travel as a way to mark growth, meaning. For some reason I fell in love with Ireland, with the coasts of England, with these places that are often very gray, and wet. I spent my coming of age years growing up in the panhandle of Florida: hot / bright / sweat / cicadas. But home is something I continue to seek, and am slowly arriving at through personal acceptance of my funny, stubborn little heart. 

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

ERW: A single one? No. But if I could only choose one genre, it would be poetry. A very well worn book on my shelf is Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack and Honey. And my first (deep, great, squeamish) literary love was Jeanette Winterson.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

ERW: To make some. I mean, honestly.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

ERW: Expansion.

CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?  

ERW: Morning Sun by Dave Bixby

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

ERW: Wet and dreamy.

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