Q & A: Eleanor Aldrich talks art exhibit

Q & A: Eleanor Aldrich talks art exhibit

CW / Grant Nicholls

Her exhibit is accompanied by “Daily Objects: Index and Context,” a collection of pieces by Dennis Ritter that attempts to put the typical 
detritus of day-to-day life in new and unexpected contexts.

We talked to Aldrich about art, work and the inspiration she draws from her childhood. “Non-Prophet” and “Daily Objects” are free to view in Sella-Granata Gallery until

Sept. 29.

Where did the idea come in to bring in objects associated with work and labor and bring that into an art exhibit?

That’s a really good question. (laughs) I’m a working artist. I don’t really have a stable other job, so I think a lot about work and the value of work, and for me, art is enjoyable, super enjoyable, it is a leisure activity, and you have to have a certain amount of money to be trained as an artist and go to art school. But it’s also some physical work. The way I paint, I’m usually on the floor wearing a gas mask, and like gloves. And so it has this relationship to actual physical labor. There’s a long tradition in painting of like, 
artists using sort of lower tools in their work. Using mops or brooms or squeegees to move paint. And so I thought that was a really interesting thing to me. Shopping at the hardware store or at the dollar store for your tools and materials, and there’s like this kind of tension between low and high there, making sort of avant-garde work but using kind of low tools.

What do you think of the relationship between being a professional artist and the more traditional kinds of labor. Do you think of yourself as a worker? Do you think artists are workers, or do you think it’s something different?

It’s different in that you’re working mostly from the desire to work. I think there should be a division made between someone who has to clean a 
bathroom or be a janitor because they don’t have other choices, they don’t have the choice to do something else. Whereas artists usually choose this kind of work. But I think there is something in society that undervalues of course the labor of people who are doing cleaning jobs, these sort of lower-rung jobs, and there also isn’t as much appreciation for artists. There are not a lot of job options.

We have a specific definition of work as Americans, which is that work is anything you do for a wage. If you make art just for fun, that’s not work. But then if somebody pays you for it, it is work. A lot of work that traditionally would be considered “women’s work,” like taking care of a child, isn’t work. But then if you babysit, and someone pays you for it, it is work. Is that something you address or try to touch on in your exhibit?

I think it’s not quite that cut and dry. That’s a great 
observation, and it is stuff I think about, like what is sort of valued in our society. But as an exhibition, the work comes first. My work really has a lot of mystery in it, I think. I work to preserve that. I don’t want it to be didactic, I don’t think that’s the place of art necessarily. It’s to kind of present something that’s open-ended. At least for me, and so that’s why I call it “Non-Prophet.” It’s a play on 
making a profit, but it’s also not a didactic, telling society what needs to happen. Because I just don’t find that very interesting as a viewer.

How did the idea to do the dual exhibition come about?

It was the gallery that decided that. But I am really excited about Dennis’ work, I think that there’s a real connection between our work, in that we both kind of make things out of materials that are approaching a simulacrum, trying to be something that’s very realistic, but the material itself sort of dictates it being a little more clumsy or being a little different than the real object it’s trying to be.

Do you think there are any important differences between your part of the 
exhibition and his?

They are two different 
exhibitions. They are pretty clearly divided and we didn’t coordinate at all. I just met him today, so it isn’t meant to be seen as one continuous exhibition. But I think it’s interesting, I think it’s consciously paired, definitely.

What is your background as an artist? How did you get started? Did you go to school or anything like that?

My parents are both artists, and they were public schoolteachers. My mom was an art teacher. So I’ve always done art. I grew up in rural Arizona and a lot of the objects in this exhibition come from that. I have this soccer goal. I like the play on sort of “goals” and “dreams,” but it’s also this empty structure and it’s kind of this crappy plastic. A lot of the – even the lawn chairs and some of that imagery comes from the, small, economically depressed town I grew up in in Arizona.

I went to Northern Arizona University for my undergrad, and I went to the University of Tennessee for my graduate school. And I did a year abroad in Holland when I was in art school, which was pretty fun.

Is this exhibit typical for you? Is this the sort of work you normally do, or would you say it’s divergent? You said you 
normally do a lot of painting, wear a gas mask and stuff like that.

When you see the exhibit, there’s a lot of different kinds of pieces in it. There are obviously similarities between, there are sort of repeated motifs, whether it’s like a calendar, [which] again references time and work, marks leisure and labor. Or like, the lawn chairs I sort of repeated. But I’m mostly interested in work that isn’t all sort of variations on a theme. I think that’s sort of hard to pin down about this show. There are a lot of 
different sub-things happening and I think that’s more interesting to me as a creator. You know, it starts as 
something sort of intuitive and then I find that it’s better to kind of think about it later. I’m not an executor in that I have a fully envisioned show and then the work comes after that idea. So the work, I kind of make a lot and then try to edit it down in the space. That’s sort of the way I work, so each show is really different because of that process.

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