Studio Visit with Loren Erdrich

Loren Erdrich’s drawings and sculptures are centered around human bodies and more specifically the female body and its experience. In watercolor and natural pigments, she manages to perfectly capture human shape and movement in spite of the unpredictable medium. The result is delicate drawings that are unbashful in their expression of raw emotion. Erdrich addresses her sculptural work in a similar manner, making many of her pieces function as 3D versions of her drawings. Her work is both personal and intimate but at the same time a curious study of humans and their relationships to each other, as well as to their own bodies. I visited her in her Bushwick studio to discuss her work and her use of imagery.

Why is the female body central for your work?

The most basic answer is that my experience comes from being a woman. In a lot of my work I draw inspiration from the emotional experience of inhabiting this body and what it means to grow up as a woman. It’s something I find important to talk about even if it’s not by using words but in using the female body in my art.

Do you see any challenges in using women’s bodies as imagery?

Yes, definitely. If you show a naked woman the image will almost automatically be considered sexy or sexual. For a while I was getting a lot of my inspiration from the internet, which has an abundance of images of naked women often in a more pornographic context, and that made me always question my process. How do I honor this person that may or may not know their image is being used to inspire my art, or even know their image is on the internet? How do I honor or acknowledge their part of the equation?

So how do you approach the use of images found on the internet?

I started to move away from images of naked bodies found on sites that were more pornographic and found myself gravitating towards pictures that showed a distinctive relationship between the photographer and the person being photographed. Another genre I found inspiring was medical images that seemed more honest in their depiction of the human body.

What is it that inspires you with these images?

It’s as if I’m trying to find a mood to work with where the subjects are being open and with their guards down. I’ve been trying to find images that aren’t so forced and in medical photographs there is no one trying to have a certain expression or trying to make their body or face into something else.

For a while I was also drawing people that were asleep, and I was especially attracted to images of people sleeping with their eyes open.

How do you transform these images to drawings that express female identity and owning your body when they sometimes originate in a very different context?

Growing up as a woman there is always this push-pull relationship with sexuality that wasn’t necessarily bad but not necessarily good either. I think every interaction has multiple layers to it, so if I’m depicting something that’s actually a sexual act, then there is a purpose in that depiction to jolt or create a distinct emotional reaction in the viewer.

Do you find your inspiration in the images you see or do you have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to express?

My inspiration has always come from psychological dramas that I then try to translate into a tangible image. Lately I’m using photographic imagery, whereas before I was just creating images from my head. I’ve always been a big reader of fiction and this has also influenced me. I’m drawn to the fantastic-ness of fleshing out full stories from prompts or single scenes. My paramount influence and inspiration is always our interior emotional natures more than anything else.