Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Oliver.
Hi Erin, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
My route has been meandering, initially studying as an architect, then moving to art education. My practice began with painting and drawing for many years, though during my studies, I took courses in various media which would relate to my practice in unexpected ways. After teaching for several years, I became much more interested in pursuing my artwork while still teaching part-time to help sustain myself.
My paintings always felt like ephemeral environments you could move through, which ignited ideas of expanding these spaces into the physical realm. When I had the opportunity to create an installation exhibition for the first time, I began to play with different possibilities and dove into cutting paper to see what would happen. An artist friend gave me a roll of paper that sat in my studio for a while. I loved how it curled and moved, holding the memory of touch. It could also expand in exciting ways, which allowed me to create layers of paper into sculptural forms.
From that experience, I dove deeper into the possibilities of paper, morphing forms into new spaces and playing with how I could use light and shadow to create atmosphere and project shapes further into space. This has led me to where I am today, still using paper in various ways and pushing my use of light, shadow, and space. Most recently, I have explored these ideas through tunnel books and installations inspired by the books.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been fairly smooth?
Definitely a bumpy road, with plenty of stops and starts. It took me a while to find my practice and voice and figure out what I wanted. Once I decided to take the leap and quit teaching full-time, I met many wonderful people who helped move my art along in various ways, and things were great. I learned much about myself and how to go after what I wanted during that time. But things change; you desire different things, which requires you to learn more and push yourself in new ways. I’ve been rejected way more times than I can count, but I’ve also had some incredible opportunities and a lot of support to keep going. It’s generally an upward climb, with some plateaus to take in the views and a few falls rolling back down the hill, but worth the effort because I get to build my way, do what I love, and keep learning through the process.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My work is multivalent, in installation, painting, drawing, works on paper, sculpture, and some photography. I am most known for my ephemeral paper installations right now, which I have been making for several years recently. I create immersive environments where visitors can move around, often taking shape as abstracted tunnels, caves, or forests. These spaces emphasize a journey and a place of refuge or solace, where visitors can spend time contemplating or rejuvenating themselves.
Recently these have taken shape as a large-scale tunnel book installation, with multiple layers of paper cutouts suspended in space, with constructed views within and between the layers, as well as more free-form sculptural components hidden within the larger whole. Light and shadow infuse these spaces with color and atmosphere, expanding the forms into the surrounding environment.
I am also known for my painting work, which gave life to my installation practice, and continues to feed my ideas and possibilities for future installations. I have also been working on some sculptural collage reliefs using the remnants from the large installation to create new work.
My artist statement:
I intuitively deconstruct natural imagery in my multi-disciplinary practice to create immersive sculptural installations with temporary materials. I evoke existing and imagined worlds that explore ideas of abstraction and artifice, science and metaphysics, cyclical processes, movement, play, and healing.
My materials reflect ephemerality and artifice, connecting to the natural world but also our virtual interactions with it. The paper is an object and screen, distorting the sense of light and space and notions of real, constructed, and imagined. Color and light become the second medium, infusing the materials with life, creating a sense of atmosphere, and activating the cutouts and edges.
Many of my installations build from previous work, sometimes re-using materials, morphing and evolving according to the site’s specifics. This iterative process allows the projects to grow and evolve, shifting as they change locations and giving them multiple lives rather than letting the materials go to waste from a single-use.
The environments I construct become surrogate landscapes, transporting viewers to imagined worlds reflecting our own and evoking a sense of calm through biomorphic forms. My installations invite visitors to move within the delicate forms as participants, drawing out the symbiotic nature of our relationships with other beings and the natural world. These encounters facilitate a sense of presence and connection to the surrounding environment as a reflection of ourselves. This puts considerable trust in the participant but also speaks to the paradox of humanity, with our tendencies to simultaneously practice inhabitation and destruction.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
I regularly attended art events such as gallery openings, lectures, workshops, and critique groups. I would meet people informally this way, making friends and finding connections with various people. I also worked several jobs within the arts, which helped me meet people and keep up with what was happening in my community. These connections led to many opportunities for me, including several people that were supporters and advocates for my work. Though I think that the critique groups were one of my top experiences, as they led not only to meeting people but gaining exposure and dialogue around my work, which was incredibly helpful in figuring out some questions in my practice and building an encouraging support network of other artists.
- Ranges from $200-2000 for paintings
- $2000-$10k+ for commissioned installations
- Ranges from $150-500 for tunnel books
- Website: http://www.erin-oliver.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/erinfreehand
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erin.oliver.422
DM Whitman JD Hardy Forrest MacDonald Will Lytch DM Whitman – photo of me with white paper installation JD Hardy – photo of me on ladder inside installation Forrest MacDonald – photo of installation with orange & purple – can see top flat frames of paper Will Lytch – photo of installation with palm and yellow green light on right side All other installation shots by me.