OP: Do you find that your subject matter weighs you down outside of the studio? That is to say, do you feel as though making work that references cultural anxiety becomes entwined with how you experience your day to day life?
EK: Well, I don't want to be too dramatic here, but I do feel slightly exhausted by it from time to time. Especially in the stage of image collecting. I've spent hours and hours just rifling through troubling images--it can really take the wind out of your sails when you spend all day looking at pictures of Donald Trump, sink holes, Wal-Mart, reality television stills, police etc. It's hard to close the studio door at the end of the day and forget any of that ever happened. That kind of pathos follows me for sure.
OP: You recently graduated from Umass Amherst with a MFA in painting. Tell us a little bit about how the program has affected your work? Also, could you elaborate on how your work has evolved since leaving the academic setting?
EK: The program affected my work in the way you would hope grad school would affect your work. Pardon the cliche, but I did feel extremely challenged from time to time, took a lot of risks in what I was comfortable making, lived in the studio every day, and was able to talk at great lengths many days with my peers usually closing down the American Legion at 1 am. It made my work better, and made me a more thoughtful artist.
HOWEVER, being out of the academic setting is certainly a refreshing change. I think in a way you need to really unlearn a lot of the habits you pick up in school so you can have the confidence and fortitude to follow your (seemingly) in-explainable impulses again. I think it’s really crucial to constantly question what it is your comfortable with and living in the institution can wonderfully package your ideas with a bow if you're not careful.
OP: You are currently the artist in residence at Artspace New Haven, could you tell us about how this residency and the staff there has impacted your work?
EK: My Motivation to apply for this residency came out of a concern that I would lose the momentum I had gathered during the last three years in the Studio Arts department at Umass Amherst. In addition to being allowed the time to essentially live in the studio I was teaching classes a few days a week in tandem. I was worried that this kind of constant activity would atrophy slightly if I lost all external motivators. Similar to the experience I had leaving Montserrat after earning my BFA, there is an anxiety that's coupled with leaving the support of an institution--finishing graduate school was no different. The possibility for an art practice to fade into obscurity after re-entering the "real world" is really all too common and the need to consciously work towards, or with an institution, an audience or ideal is paramount if you want to continue making stuff with no one standing over your shoulder telling you to.
Though I've continued to build on the themes and motifs that occupied my work during graduate school, the experience has certainly been enhanced and questioned due to the inquiry of the staff at Artspace. Dialogue around the work is essential to me, the formal and casual communal tendencies of this residency has been great.