WOMEN WHO CREATE: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ARTIST ERICA PRINCE
Finding a fitting work description for Brooklyn-based artist Erica Prince is a tough job. Her recent projects range from making multi-functional ceramics, or “containers” as she calls them, to running a Makeover salon in her studio. The containers she creates are bold, playful and of such unexpected shapes that their use is not predefined but open to everyone’s own imagination. Imagination and the many fantasies of what could be possible are also aspects Prince plays with at her Makeover salon. Transforming her attendants into a completely different person is supposed to help them get a new perspective on who they actually are. We cought up with Prince to learn more about the multidisciplinary artist‘s concept of “thinking outside the box”.
Your “Transformational Makeovers“ focus much more on becoming someone else than on improving of what you already have. Why do you think is it important to “free yourself from yourself“ every once in a while?
Stepping outside oneself promotes empathy, it expands worldview, perspective, and makes us realize that we are much more fluid and malleable than we think. We contain multitudes, and that’s a beautiful thing that should be explored. Sometimes shifting our exterior can shock us
into an interior shift. Everyone wants the opportunity to be someone else, or to see themselves differently, even if it’s just momentarily and the transformation is unexpected and experimental.
Who are the people that come to you for a makeover?
Brave, open-minded people that want to be pampered but are also hungry for a physical and mental refresher. I have so much respect for the participants because they’re willing to hand over full responsibility to me. I never make permanent changes, but they are still brave to let me transform them with no idea of the outcome. Sometimes I have participants who have a lot of experience playing with their looks, but I often get participants who feel a bit stuck in their ways and are looking for a safe space to explore feelings of newness. It’s surprising to me how many people, women in particular, for whatever reason, haven’t felt comfortable experimenting with their appearance for fear of seeming superficial.
What kind of reactions do the makeovers elicit?
The reactions usually fall into a few categories: the ‘total in-shock can barely make eye contact with themselves’ people, the ‘screaming freaking out’ people that instantly adopt a new personality to match their new look and the ‘quiet, staring deep into their own eyes with a confused but curious look’ people. I love it when a shy person instantly comes out of their shell
when they see themselves as someone new. It’s like the new persona gives them permission to act without fear or hesitation.
Where do you see the power in what you refer to as “returning to the small things“?
As I get older I become more and more grateful for the small things – a thoughtfully arranged, simple floral arrangement, beautiful sunny mornings, a small chunk of time reserved for mindfulness. Finding beauty in the small things is perhaps all we can rely on, and if we want to be happy it’s crucial that we learn how to appreciate these things. There’s so much power in that. Recently I’ve been making objects for the home, multifunctional ceramic Containers, that assist in this attempt to enjoy and appreciate the small things.
Your containers are supposed to be used for more than just one purpose. Why do you stay away from defining what it “should“ be used for?
Because I believe in adaptability, in the need to evolve and change. I want to make lasting objects that will grow and change with the people that live with them. There are suggested uses, but for me, the pieces come to life when people figure out how they can interpret them to suit their needs and priorities.
You are a multi-disciplinary artist. When did you come up with the idea to create the containers?
I’ve always loved multi-compartment container forms like caboodles, tool boxes or intricate display shelves. They appeal to my love for object arrangement. I looked for these forms in the world and when I realized they didn’t really exist, I started drawing them. I found a drawing I made in 2008 of an interior that was full of these elaborate tubular forms. The idea for the forms came long before my understanding of how to make them out of ceramics. I was so deeply immersed in the fine art world it took me a while to wrap my head around making functional pieces. That seems funny to me now because clearly I’m obsessed with the intersection of conceptual art and our everyday domestic lives.
Your work also has a very feminist approach, you are inspired by female artists and criticise the current political climate. However, your drawings and sculptures also radiate quite a domestic vibe, they focus a lot on “the home“. How do you unify this?
Loving your home and domestic life aren’t mutually exclusive from being an active feminist. My focus on the home and the choices made therein have always been from the perspective of a female narrative. I love the spaces women make for themselves, to empower themselves. I recently consigned a bunch of my ceramic Containers to The Wing, and although this isn’t a
home, I think it’s a great example of a space that’s designed with women’s needs in mind. Our spaces are direct reflections of who we are. I love to create portraits of imaginary women based on how they may arrange one of my ceramics, or how they would decorate a room. Interior design is just another way to express our point of view, and like a makeover, it’s not as
superficial as some might think.
You see the “personal as political“. Can you explain this?
Prioritizing personal female narratives in unapologetic ways is political. Showing a ceramic sculpture in a Chelsea gallery that holds 15 shades of lipstick may not seem political, but it is. Making work primarily for a female audience, work that only women may see the relevance of, is political.
Which societal/political change do you wish to make with your art?
I am an immigrant and therefore always at the mercy of the system – I couldn’t make overtly political work even if I wanted to – I don’t think Americans realise that immigrants in this country don’t really have the freedom to say whatever they want. I do what I can to make work that feels
empowering and beautiful and inspires others to own their point of view.
All images courtesy of Erica Prince
With the series Women Who Create, Material Magazine is looking to highlight women from a variety of professions and passions that use their unique talents to carve out a space for themselves and their art in our cultural landscape.