One of our most popular shows of the year is back — February marks the tenth annual Romance of the Nude & Figure show. Notable new artist Erin Henry will present a new body of work in this show. Her provocative work continues to intrigue and seduce viewers into an unconventional world of chaotic energy and shifted subjects. At only 22, Erin is also an intriguing subject, and we spent a little time talking to her to learn more about this amazingly accomplished young artist.
dk: “Art Prodigy” is a description that I have heard used when talking about you. Have you heard this? What does that mean to you when you hear it.
Erin: *Nervous laugh* It makes me a little uncomfortable when I hear it. I’m not exactly sure what it means. I am confident in my talent. But maybe what people see is my passion?
dk: How old were you when you first knew that you would be an artist? What led you to that discovery?
Erin: The first thing that comes to mind are my kindergarten projects. I guess the first time I was ever asked ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’ was in kindergarten. I still have one of those kindergarten drawings where I answered that I wanted to be an artist. Then I guess I had a better handle on it in high school. I loved my art, and I was recognized for it. That’s when I realized that I had a long attention span for painting, but not as much for other interests. At the time, I was also very involved in music. I played the French Horn at school and in the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra, but I relied mainly on my natural talent. I didn’t really like to practice my instrument. I realized I could spend six hours or more just painting, and I loved it. But practicing music wasn’t the same. That’s when art pulled me away from the music program.
dk: You made a decision to leave the art school you began to strike out on your own. Can you talk about what it was like to come to that decision, and how that is shaping your work today?
Erin: I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go to college. But I decided to go to KSU because they offered a traditional experience with a good art program, and it was nearby. Maybe I went there because I wanted to see whether college was really for me before I made a huge investment. After a year and half, I really felt like I was not benefitting from that environment as much as I would have liked. I called my parents and told them I decided I was finished. They have always been incredibly supportive. This is what helps me to be bold about making decisions about my art. The way it is shaping my work today is that now I have all the time in the world to paint. I feel that the more hours I have been spending painting has made me so much better. If I could have had more concentrated time to paint at school, I might still be there.
dk: So what have you been doing since leaving school?
I have basically just been painting my butt off! But also, I’ve been getting into the “scene” more lately, and networking with art industry people, galleries, and collectors around the country and world. I spent some time in Los Angeles a little while back. While it’s important to build up a nice body of work, you can’t become a successful, full-time painter spending all of your time in the studio. It’s an artist’s job to also inform the world about who you are. So no matter what city I’m in at the moment, I’m painting and working on making connections worldwide.
dk: You have a new body of work that you will be exhibiting in dk Gallery’s Nudes and Figures show. How has your new work been inspired, and what can we expect to see?
When I first started driving across country to Los Angeles from Atlanta, the first major visual inspiration came from watching the landscapes change around me. I had never traveled that far west before, so seeing the desert gave me something I had never experienced before. This change influenced my color usage, and structure of how I painted. While I still have the same figurative subject matter, I played and altered the figures in more bold, curious ways this time. I sometimes feel like I took out my stress and anger on these paintings. Essentially, you can expect to see a lot of emotion, atmosphere, and obviously nude women — possibly missing some body parts!
dk: How do your color palettes typically emerge?
Usually step one for me is determining whether it’s going to have a warm-toned palette, cool-toned palette, or be gray-scale monochromatic. I start within a neutral area of the whichever main tone that is, and then slowly build up and add different tones and colors from there. Even when I use bright, saturated colors, I like to keep the use limited. I prefer not to have a super large range of colors in a painting. I think for the most part, the more minimal, the better.
dk: Many of the figures you have painted embody a chaotic energy characterized by startling displacement from their natural surroundings or natural body positioning. Do you use models, or do you know the people in your paintings?
In this new body of work, you will get to meet a lovely new muse I have been capturing lately, Danielle. I’ve been able to shoot a lot of my own photos of her for me to use as reference. I like to use my own models whenever I can, but I also do occasionally use found photos from the internet as well. No matter what subject I’m painting, I really enjoy the moments when a viewer comments that they seem to recognize or feel like they know the figure(s) in the piece. That is my main goal – connection, rather than precisely capturing the likeness of a specific person.
dk: Just for fun, you’ve done some traveling and have seen a lot of art. What is the coolest piece you have seen?
That is such a tough question! But there is this one really cool installation I saw in Houston I liked. It’s called Houston Penetrable by Jesús Rafael Soto. It was really huge and multiple people can walk through it at one time. It’s interactive because you can walk through it, touching it.