This past Friday, I attended the launch and exhibition of artist Erik Madigan Heck's new book,
January to August, with my fellow OCNY-er Sam. The event took place in Soho's unassumingly refined ION Studio, where lil' Sammy and I were awestruck by Heck's stunningly vivid photographs. Seeing his work on a small scale is one thing, but experiencing it in person, you can fully appreciate the beauty of his craft. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to ask Erik a few questions about his artistic processes and this latest project of his.
Nathan Shahani: A large portion of your oeuvre appears to be deeply art-historical. Compositionally and stylistically, I see references to the Expressionists and aesthetes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Is there any artist or genre with which you feel most aligned?
Erik Madigan Heck: I really love Edouard Vuillard and the Nabis. I wish I could have met him when he was alive. I suppose I've learned a few things from studying his paintings. Most of my inspiration has always come from painting. I am unfortunately not the most gifted with an actual brush, so I've resorted to creating photographs.
NS: How is your voice carried throughout your work? How do you maintain it?
EMH: My voice is very subtle. I can't yet articulate what my voice is, but it's always quietly present on an emotional level. Aesthetically, my work varies quite a bit, so it's easy to think my voice isn't consistent, but I think it is if you look very closely.
NS: Your talent excels in writing, film, photography, and graphic art. Is there any medium you've found to be most expressive?
EMH: I feel they all inform each other. I would be intellectually bored if I only created photographs. My writing helps me think about what I want to make next visually, and to understand why. The design helps me articulate it to the world in a broader format, so they are all puzzle pieces intertwined. But, at the end of the day, it is the photograph or painting that is my final product: the final embodiment of all the elements. I love to write, but I wouldn't consider myself a writer. I'm a visual artist through and through.
NS: You seem to be comfortable working in color as well as in black-and-white. Do you prefer working in one over the other? Are there any limitations that you have found in either palette?
EMH: No, I love both equally. They are very different from each other and I therefore consciously use them for different situations, intentions and clients. The black-and-white work comes from a more natural and instinctual place. My color work is always more premeditated.
NS: Aside from the content, do you see a difference between fashion photography and your portrait series? What style do you prefer?
EMH: My portraiture is more serious, or traditional, rather. I enjoy very formal portraiture, whereas I feel I have more creative freedom with my fashion works. Those are my own restrictions on myself though, and I'm not sure why. It's always been that way.
NS: The generic but always fascinating question: where do you draw your inspiration from?
EMH: Music and painting ... I know it's a boring answer, but it's true. And overcast days, and parks with few people...
NS: Do you produce art for yourself or the public?
EMH: For the public. You can't just produce art for yourself, eventually the public will consume it. Just look at Darger.
NS: What aspects of your new book have been the most rewarding and challenging?
EMH: The chapter 'Chisholm, Minnesota' was very personal, as it's the town my parents grew up in, and includes portraits of family members who have died this year. Most of the work was actually shot over the 4th of July. That was the most rewarding chapter, in some ways. It was almost everything I've made in the 8 months of this year so far, so it was a lot of sorting out the works...
NS: You seem to be an exceedingly visual and creative individual, whose success is continuing to blossom at your early age. What keeps you so driven?
EMH: My dad never lets me sleep. He's a mental terrorist who raised me to be an overachiever. If I'm not working every day, I can feel his eyes on me from half the country away. It's not necessarily a good thing, being driven. Some days, I wish I could just relax.
NS: January to August is sure to be a brilliant success. What are you going to do to celebrate?
EMH: Many drinks... :)
41 #1R Wooster St
New York, NY
January to August
will soon be available at OC, to order your copy now please email email@example.com
Erik Madigan Heck
january to august
it takes two