A R T
by Erin K Drew
Erin K Drew and I had a conversation about art, women, writing and getting older. It was one I'd wanted to have for a while now. Ever since I saw this black wall hanging she made with these colorful eyes all over it, I've felt that we share a common interest. It’s not the sentiment of her work that resonates with me— although it could, there’s something sneaky about it, something secrety that I like— but more of the larger, illusive life context she captures that gets me going. It’s super great wallpaper I’d like to have. Or something that reminds me of old cartoons I watched when I was a kid, specifically Casper the Friendly Ghost, and that makes me feel like we’ve been through something together. Or I guess it’s just art that I like. Something that I assume people I like would like. This stuff is by and large from a recent show Erin did of big murals, which appropriated some design schemes from handpainted retail murals around Indianapolis and quoted Nine Inch Nails. Plus, she made a skateboard.
Jen Snyder for YesYesYes: So I read that you're moving away from visual art and doing more writing. What prompted that change? When I’m working on my writing, there is so much I find I can't impart with words. Sometimes I think a song would convey a sentiment so much better. Sometimes I think making a movie is the only way to really be able to make a point accurately. Were you just not getting to say what you wanted to say right with visual art? Erin K Drew: Adaptation has become an important part of my process. I feel like I'm constantly circling around the same ideas, trying to describe them (to paraphrase Susan Sontag) using whatever medium is available that will get closest to my point (without ever really getting on top of it). My art has made a distinctive shift over the years from figurative—characters in implied narratives with some comic book style text—to largely "drawing" text, to straight essay style writing. Though I don't feel stuck or limited to writing! Really, the factor that's influenced my choice of medium most has been the physical space I have available to make art in! Writing became my go-to when I had no studio to speak of and was constantly roving around Bloomington, responding to my environment and avoiding my house.
YYY: There is definitely a practical issue of just not being able to fit supplies in a room in a functional way. That is a constant issue for people in San Francisco. But in that, there's the idea of your surroundings dictating the kind of art you make. You live in Indiana. Did you always live there? Do you ever want to just bail to New York or Chicago or something? I feel like lot of my friends in big cities dream of and almost objectify life in smaller cities. Myself included. Especially as I near the big 3-0. It seems like things are more "real" in smaller cities… whatever that means… maybe people don't focus on the rat race so hard. Whereas a lot of people I know from smaller cities spent their early adulthood and longer trying to formulate an escape plan so they could make it big or whatever. Sure, the grass is always greener, but why did you choose a flyover state to call home? Is it as quaint/away-from-all-this-bullshit/closer-to-nature/keeping-it-on-the-level/no-models-or-facebook-slash-google-rich-folk/people-actually-talk-to-each-other vibes as I think it is?
EKD: This question is kind of hard for me, cuz I guess I still have a chip on my shoulder about location. I live in Bloomington now, and Indianapolis is my hometown where I lived through a lot of my adulthood. The first thing I did when I graduated from high school was move to Chicago, in an attempt to avoid the gravitational pull of the Hoosier state, and the time I spent there was really important, but logistics drove me back into Indy's arms. It's essential for me to think of my location now as a choice, and one I especially made with turning 30 in mind. Small cities do offer lots of opportunities. Bloomington is a dense, idiosyncratic town and a great operational base. I feel like my quality of life is pretty high, and there's lots of high quality like-minded people in my age group around me. Things do feel like a tight fit sometimes, but I can easily make a trek elsewhere, or ride my bike to an abandoned water slide or decrepit geodesic dome in the middle of the woods whenever I want a scenic escape.
YYY: I wanted to ask you about being a female artist and championing other female artist/musicians/makers. I know you've made a bunch of posters for friends' bands. A lot of them were ladies-only bands and were for shows hosted (from what I understand through our mutual friend) at ladies’ houses. Very neat. As someone who is female-creator obsessed (I'm listening to almost all female music, reading some female authors, hanging predominantly with gals), I'm finding that having a bond with women is ever more important as I prepare to leave my sex-obsessed 20s for my (slightly less sex-obsessed) 30s. Actually, sometimes I almost feel like I'm sexist. I trust and admire women. I'm proud. What's your favorite part of doing stuff as a woman? Ever feel stuck or pigeonholed? What is it that we got that they don't got? Wanna start an all girl commune out in the desert? EKD: I overwhelmingly pursue media made by women and non-men and try to surround myself with the makers of the media I admire. It makes a lot of sense to me to pursue representations of people and situations to which I relate, and it shocks me how it can become a radical project, just letting women's words float to the top. Although I shy away from essentialist statements, the babes I love and look to for inspiration are stunningly emotionally articulate, funny, and full of surprising perspectives. Making things with and around Hen, the Von Volsung Sisters, Mammy Flammy aka Bad Psychic, and Auroradoreyalice (all of whom work interdisciplinarily and are linked on my blog) just to name a few, has been super special and generative for my process and I'd be so into partying with you and them in the desert any day.
YYY: Is there something I left out that I shouldn’t have? EKD: Hmm, Jen, what's left to say? Looking back over this, I think I said "process" too much and I hope in the future we can develop a nuanced word that's less self-serious. You brought up milestone birth times; I'm looking forward to turning thirty. I like thinking about it as a time for shedding residual location-related self-consciousness and transcending concerns about cool that might have slowed down my last decade's momentum. As I write this I'm watching a woman in a gaudy handmade dinosaur costume drink a mimosa alone at a bar. I wonder if that's significant.