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Erik Nelson

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Could you introduce yourself?

This was a tough question for me. I came up with 3 possibilities:


  1. I live on a very old mountain in Vermont with P$ (spouse), 4 kids, a husky, 2 Siamese cats, 3 tabby cats, one sun-kissed corn snake, a goldfish and numerous trees and plants. We have 3 beaver for neighbors who are a constant inspiration. 

  2. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a simulation of my own doing. There was a time when I thought of myself as TEWTHIEN (The Entity Who Thinks He Is Erik Nelson).

  3. I’m proud to admit that I’m a grown-ass man who still believes in faeries, unicorns, good men and other imaginary creatures. 


Could you define “abstract” in your word/thoughts?


I think of “abstract” as a liminal space beyond the boundaries of language and time where the realm of possibility approaches the infinite, which is another way of saying…a playground where I’m free to do what I want.


Could you tell us about “q series” in terms of your painting and your stating? 


I used one size paper (small; 6” x 9”), a limited palette, and one brush, a cheap one used to apply make-up. “q” obviously stands for “quarantine”. The series is a reassessment of my relationship with myself, family, community, environment, food, water, the woods, this mountain and ultimately my art, a looking inward and attempting to simplify my visual language, impact, and execution.


What inspired your painting? 


We live on a mountain and nobody picks up our trash, so going to the dump once a week is still one of the mandatory things I have to do. Near the recycling, they have a huge box where people drop off unwanted books. I’ve met a lot of other artists who poach this box-bin, like I do. I found an old book called, “The Stars, a study of the universe.” By Simon Newcomb, retired professor U.S. Navy. It’s from 1901 so I feel a little guilty ripping it’s guts out and making paintings on them, but not that guilty, it was in a box at the dump. On the title page is a latin phrase, “Hæc sut fastigia mundi”. Google translates it as, “This is the towering peaks of the world.”  So I guess this was the springboard for the q series, living on one of the peaks, and like any artist, contemplating my place in the cosmos.


Where does the process begin for you?


The play state. In almost everything I do, I’m chasing that play state you have as a child, outside of time, the eternal trance-like present of the imagination. I always think of the Heraclitus quote, “Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”


Could you describe how you visualized (depicted) your painting regarding lines, shapes, and colors?


I try to restrict/reduce the time between thought and mark, eliminating thought altogether…if such a thing were possible. If there is too much pause, I just commit to something. I’ve found that the idea of a “mistake” hinders risk-taking/progress, so I quit believing in them.

As far as the forms/lines/shapes…they seem to come from a personal repository (maybe from a Subconscious Narrative? your words) of glyphs, sigils, symbols, and patterns gathered during my 44 years exploring time on Earth. I’m too flawed to attempt forms from Sacred Geometry, so I dabble in profane geometry.


Could you share with us about your plan for your next work if you have ?


Right now, on top of the q series, I’m working on two other series on paper. One is 22 portraits of the Statue of Liberty. I had an old National Parks calendar I was using for paper and she was on one of the months which started me off on that series. It’s still evolving.

Right now I’m reading Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer (which is a great book), and she opens the book with the origin story she grew up with of the Skyworld and Skywoman, and she contrasts it with Eve and the Garden of Eden. Here is a quote:

“On one side of the world were people whose relationship with the living world was shaped by Skywoman, who created a garden for the well-being of all. On the other side was another woman with a garden and a tree. But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden and the gates clanged shut behind her…..One woman is our ancestral gardener, a cocreator of the good green world that would be the home of her descendants. The other was an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home in heaven.”

So I’m also working on a series of paintings, using beauty and perfume ads from magazines, that reflect on Eve and the serpent, the origin story I was told when I was young. I wish I was told about the Skyworld and Skywoman when I was younger though.


Would you like to introduce any other work?


I have about 10 paintings on canvas in the studio, and numerous works on paper that reflect on the labyrinth, and Ariadne’s roll in the Minotaur myth. I’ve been thinking about them as conversations with Ariadne. I’m terrible at documenting the work and getting it out there though. I’d rather be spending time creating the work than everything else that comes with being an artist.


Do you have any artist who inspires or influences your art?


Theodor Geisel, Chuck Jones, Philip Guston, Frank Auerbach, Anslem Kiefer, Ai Weiwei, George Condo, Alex Itin.

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