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Eric Eley Takes Over Suyama Space


Artist Eric Eley contemplates his next step beneath his nearly-completed installation, In Theater.

One might be inclined to think that after spending two years as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Clay Foundation in Helena, MT and after that, spending an entire graduate school career studying ceramics, that Eric Eley would now be spending a lot of time working with pottery and ceramics.  While that may be true when Eric is teaching his ceramics class at a Dallas, TX, community college, it was certainly not true on the day I went to see his progress on his latest installation piece, In Theater, which opens tomorrow night at Suyama Space in Seattle.  

Check out Eric's progress and the painstaking details on In Theater in the slideshow below.


In Theater is a piece inspired by photographs given to Eley by his grandfather, a war pilot.  The photographs are aerial images of what Eric refers to as "battlefield architecture" -- trenches, camouflage netting and barricades.  In Theater resembles a giant shelter made of camouflage netting.  Eric wants the piece to have "a feeling of shelter, without actually having much shelter", serving a purpose similar to actual camouflage in a battlefield.

Using only a few materials, such as parachute cord, burlap, plaster and paint, Eric is creating his largest indoor installation to date.

Most of In Theater was designed and built at Eric's relatively small 300 square-foot studio in Dallas, TX.  Many of the details and finishing touches on the installation come in to play during actual construction at Suyama Space, since the piece has never been able to be fully assembled before now.

While not the most prominent feature on the structure, there are painstaking details throughout.  Here, Eric ties off a line that weaves strategically through a portion of the structure that looks similar to a barricade of barbed wire fencing.

Eyelets are screwed in to the floor of the gallery and act as anchor points for a section of the work.

The yellow and white pattern on the smaller pieces of wood is an old camouflage technique that relied more on optical perception of movement, rather than blending via color similarities.  And those white fence posts in the background?...

...Each one was made by pouring plaster in to molds built from cedar lumber, which gave the woodgrain impression.

Strips of burlap hang across parachute cord that has been stretched and tied in to a web pattern to resemble the camouflage netting used in battlefields.

The parachute cord is joined at the ends with metal rings.  Hundreds of knots are tied at points throughout the piece.

Paint on each knot helps to prevent them from slipping and adds an interesting aesthetic.

By the time it is finished, In Theater will have taken almost two weeks to put up in Suyama Space.  Many, many more hours were put in to the piece at Eric's home studio long before construction in the gallery began.  Eric tells me only one other installation has taken him this long to construct.

Watching Eric work, I can tell he plans every move he makes while building.  No detail is ignored with each stretch of rope and each hole drilled.  To truly appreciate this, you need to experience In Theater in person.  An opening reception will be held tomorrow, Jan. 21 from 5-7 and Eric will be speaking at 12p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22.  Both events will be held at Suyama Space - 2324 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA  The installation will come down April 8.