Tuesday, July 19, 2011

EJ Hauser

This week I visited EJ Hauser in her studio in Sunset Park. I had only just met EJ a couple weeks ago and was immediately drawn to her personality as much as I had already been drawn to her work. Her studio is something else -- dreamily spacious, stocked with a library that makes you want to pull up a chair and stay for awhile, and occupied by an artist brimming with drive and vivacity. It really got me excited to sit down and draw.   

EJ: I think of myself as a sculptor who makes paintings.

Although EJ's work incorporates various ways of approaching painting, it all lives within a world that is very clearly her own. We spoke about how the studio is like a playground for the artist, moving from one corner to the next, climbing up and around all of the artistic possibilities. She expressed to me that she believes you have to keep close your childhood interests when in your studio. How right she is. EJ has enabled this by how she has organized her space. I adored listening to her talk to me about all of her studio's different zones, referring to one section as her "kitchen," where she cooks up ideas and lets experimentation take her to new places within her work. Both large and small paintings were cooking up there. Another area of her studio was left for viewing. A few large paintings were given the space to be seen on their own -- as though they had no relation to the rest and had just shown up on the scene. This was in contrast to another section of her studio, which was thick with works from the past and present, here conversing on the wall, informing one another as well as the artist.

EJ utilizes text in her paintings in a variety of different ways. It can be used as a springboard for creating a lusciously surfaced multi-layered abstraction, a way of presenting the viewer with a single word or phrase that begs to be spoken loudly, or yet again as a way to give homage to a poem or lyric she has been undoubtedly drawn to. One new painting reads "ROOKIES" in bold text across a tree full of confused looking birds. I wondered who these rookie birds were... all of us, I suppose.
EJ told me about a Charles Burchfield quote that was important to her:
Before starting work go thru all the formal material
many things of vital importance have been lost sight of.

One body of work she spoke to me about happened by collecting paint brush tests on sheets from SUPERPAGES, an all yellow-pages directory. She recently showed this body of work at LUMP in Raleigh, NC. These wave-like formations, also using text, but now as a foundation, breathe cooly next to one another and pop up throughout the studio. It is clear that EJ is constantly looking around her, taking in the world in and outside her space.

 EJ pulled out books to share while doing some delectable DJing as we discussed just what exactly it meant to give your life to this thing called art. As the hours flew by, I listened, learned, looked, and had a wonderfully collaberative day drawing with her. At its end she took me to the roof and showed me why they call this part of Brooklyn Sunset Park. We waved at the Statue of Liberty and watched the Staten Island ferry go by. Another solid Pencil in the Studio with a totally fantastic painter and person. To see more of her work go to http://www.ejhauser.org/.