An ongoing series of Q&As with some of our most fascinating contemporary artists, introduced in their own words. This week it’s Erin Currier, an artist whose unique process involves traveling the world and expressing her love for the planet and its peoples not only in her striking images but in recycling collected trash for use in her “mixed media” materials. Currier this week heads to the L.A. Art Show with her most recent creations.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ERIN CURRIER: I began drawing before I could walk or speak, and have been drawing ever since! I rarely give much thought to or identify with “being an artist,” as creating art is completely integrated into every facet of my life. My artistic practice has taken me on a lifelong “shoestring” adventure — packed with action and magic — that has variously found me training in Beijing with kung fu masters; tango dancing in Buenos Aires; eating dinner on dirt floors with Tibetan exiles in Nepal and at the dinner tables of famed filmmakers in Italy; in medicinal ceremonies in the Amazonian jungle; at Tahrir Square with a million Egyptians; all the while documenting through drawing in travel journals, and collecting ephemera to ship back to the studio to collage into my paintings. I use the proceeds of the sales of my art to witness the world firsthand — when I sell a painting, I buy a plane ticket and go!
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
What consistently compels my artistic practice is the desire and sense of obligation to convey that which I have found to be true in all of the 50-plus countries I have traveled to: that our commonalities as human beings far outweigh our differences. Divisions are often either superficial or artificially created based on racial, economic and national ideologies. Where we are similar is of a more profound metaphysical caliber: the bond between brothers, the love between mother and child, the kinship shared through creative endeavors — these run like threads in the great fabric of generations.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Trash collector or Sadhu. That said, there are many things I already love doing when I am not creating art — dancing, doing martial arts, studying language, writing. I’ve been blessed in my life to have never experienced boredom!
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
I grew up drawing, painting, collaging with my mother; she, along with my grandfather and other family members, were draftsmen, painters, lithographers and renderers. I earned a BFA in theater design and technical. In retrospect, my work is very much like the theater: From a distance, it is like a painting; up close, one realizes the painting is comprised of cigarette packages, cereal boxes and Muay Thai flyers.
When was your first show?
My very first exhibition was in 1998 at the cafe in Taos, New Mexico, where I worked as a barista. I was blown away by how much trash was discarded every day. I began to collect it and bring it home after every shift. I’d been studying Tibetan Thangka painting and created my first series of Buddhist deities comprised of the coffee shop trash: Equal and Sweet 'N Low packets, used cups, half & half containers; it was a great success! From there, I was picked up by galleries in New Mexico, in California and eventually abroad, and have been supporting myself as a full-time artist ever since. Exactly 20 years later, in 2018, I was honored to have a solo museum retrospective at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos: a complete circle.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I am honored to be exhibiting with my primary representation, Blue Rain Gallery, at the L.A. Art Show this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We are in Booth 335/434 — come visit!
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Diego & Frida — who else?!!?
I’ve been honored to show alongside Warhol, Rauschenberg, Calder and other Modernist greats; however, the most profound honor and joy is to continue to show with living artists with heart — artists such as Jim Vogel — with whom I’ll exhibit at the L.A. Art Show, and Nicholas Herrera, Cynthia Cook, Cara and Diego Romero, Arthur Lopez, and Sergio and Luis Tapia, to name but a few.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Absolutely! Most recently I can’t get enough of the album my friends Barrett Martin and Lisette Garcia just released — recordings of the indigenous Shipibo shamans with whom we stayed together in the Amazon six months ago: Woven Songs of the Amazon II: A Cycle of Healing. It is poignant, haunting, yet uplifting.
Website and social media handles, please!