For this edition of Fan Mail, New York based artist Erin Rachel Hudak has been selected from a group of worthy submissions. If you would like to be considered, please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org a link to your website with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line. One artist is featured each month—the next one could be you!
I have grown to love a television program entitled American Restoration, which chronicles a Las Vegas shop that restores rusty, beat-up items to their former beauty. After recently marveling at the rebirth of a 1940s USPS mailbox, it became evident that my fixation on these objects has little to do with the items themselves, but is instead tied to the stories I fashion for them in my mind and believe must be accurate.
Promiseland – Erin Rachel Hudak’s new body of work – responds to notions of storytelling, considering the ways individual narratives can be insinuated into more collective notions of cultural and national history. She mines Americana for her imagery, incorporating quilt patterns, lanterns and baskets, among others, into her paintings and collages. Her images immediately evoke an almost innate rehearsal of American folklore. At the same time, her slight subversions of these original symbols – coupled with the use of opened ended phrases like “this is where we begin” – invite a more personal interpretation of these signs.
While the works’ subject matters may initially appear benign – seemingly playful due to their bright colors and use of lighthearted materials such as glitter – there are often underlying political implications. The title painting, Promiseland, reconsiders the American Seal, presenting the bald eagle holding arrows, but missing the corresponding olive branch – that which nods to our preference for peace. The lightly colored wing on the left stands in stark contrast to the ominous, dripping black characterizing the right wing. I am particularly intrigued by the repeated appearance of fire in these works. What at first seems to be an innocuous allusion to a campfire – the quintessential site of storytelling in American culture – also references a headdress and crown, intimating those narratives often concealed from public consciousness.
Concurrent with her exhibition at Ochi Gallery, Hudak created the on-site installation, Love you Forever, in Sun Valley’s Festival Meadows. First presented beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with gold and silver mylar balloons, Hudak has reimagined this installation for the rugged winter terrain of Idaho. Constructed of pink and gold fabric, the letters whimsically mark the meadow’s otherwise white landscape, a reminder to appreciate one’s environment. While the installation is not a formal extension of her gallery exhibition, the work certainly represents a consistent interest in using form and text to prompt self-awareness. As Hudak explains, “[w]e need the moments between our thoughts to understand art and to understand ourselves. Public art can give you that opportunity when you least expect it.”
Promiseland is on view at Ochi Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho through March 15. Her installation Love you Forever was installed on February 17 in Sun Valley. Keep your eyes peeled for information on her outdoor installation at the DUMBO Arts Festival in September 2012.