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The artist surrounded by some of her recent works.
Enrique Limón

’Trotter of the Revolution

Erin Currier’s art is both sublime and politically charged

September 10, 2013, 12:00 am
Mugshot-style printouts are taped to a wall in Erin Currier’s studio. They feature the faces of American anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, legendary Mexican artist’s model Carmen Mondragón, Italian political activist Virgilia d’Andrea and Japanese anarcho-feminist Kanno Sugako. They serve as inspiration for “Punkabbestia,” a monumental mixed media on wood panel that depicts all four women in their youth, represented as Roman gutter punks.

The work is the centerpiece of Currier’s upcoming From Paris to Phnom Penh exhibit, opening this Friday at Blue Rain Gallery.

Adhering to Currier’s signature style, “Punkabbestia” features a seemingly never ending number of layers composed by discarded ephemera she finds during trips abroad: Items such as the lining of a box of tea, promotional flyers from an all-male strip club in Buenos Aires and a Czech doggie waste bag.

“I find the trash as I go along,” the soft-spoken artist says. “I don’t plan the collage part out in advance; that happens organically after I paint.”  

Nearby, a piece titled “Temple Cleaners of Cambodia” is also laced with a struggle of basic dignity and human rights. “It’s based on women I met who clean the temple grounds,” the self-described “traveling ontographer,” says. “There are hundreds of Buddhist temples that go on for miles and miles.”

The work evolved from sketches Currier made during a visit to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Its stewards, it turns out, have a unique, homespun fashion sense, which caught the artist’s eye.  

“They combine all these patterns,” Currier says. “They’ll wear cowboy hats with plaid hoodies and striped pants; they inspired me visually, so I tried to incorporate that.”

Iconography revolving around female saints is also one of her current obsessions.

“The more I research these saints, the more I’m seeing that a lot of them were non-conformist, even rebellious women of their time,” Currier muses. “They were free thinkers. A lot of them went up against the church hierarchy—the greater authority—and were pursued.”  

That against-the-grain nature is a common thread in Currier’s body of work. “All of my work is about the autonomy of the human being, people’s quest for emancipation,” she says, “and I see that in the stories of a lot of these saints.”

The quest, she adds, as well her interest for overseas adventure, has been a lifelong one.

“My whole life, what I always wanted to do when I was growing up, was to see the world. Making art is what I did naturally, so I found a way where they inform one another,” she says of the symbiotic relationship. “Through the art, I’m able to live pretty simply and save money to travel and then on the travels I collect materials and ideas to make into art.”

Being always “on” Currier says, does not get in the way of enjoy her travels; rather, it adds a whole new dimension to them. “My enjoyment of anything is the potential of drawing it, painting it.”

Currier assures that racking up frequent flyer miles isn’t a prerequisite for the creation of her captivating brand of art. Inspiration for her is around every corner.

“Gosh, where do I not find inspiration here?” she says about calling Santa Fe home. “I’m obviously very inspired by the Spanish Colonial arts here; the Pueblo arts; my palette; and my concerns as an artist.”

Often caught in her own intricate, creative vortex, the artist says it’s always an interesting moment when she decides she’s done with a painting.

“I just paint to the absolute best of my ability and I hit a ceiling with my own skill,” she explains. “With the collaging, I could just keep on layering and layering indefinitely.”

Ultimately, Currier adheres to a literary approach. “I think about what Eduardo Galeano and a lot of writers I respect say, ‘It’s not what you write, but what you leave out—what’s left unsaid.’”

From Paris to Phnom Penh
5-7 pm Friday, Sept. 13
Blue Rain Gallery, 130 Lincoln Ave.


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