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Art & Life with Erica Ryan Stallones

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Ryan Stallones.

Erica, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up on the outskirts of LA, and I love it here. This is Paradise – in a sunburnt, Jonathan Gold cult, commuter-explorer, extreme sub-genre kind of way. For the most part, I think people who don’t love Los Angeles are unwilling to have a complicated relationship with their environment. It’s not one thing here, at least not yet, and the stubborn contradiction is what makes it so addictive (to me). I was lucky enough to have been raised in a household that valued art, both in terms of art-making and an appreciation of the beautiful and the truly weird. I am the product of a photographer/junk collector and a grocery clerk who really, really cares about native California plants. My childhood was spent visiting museums, backyard folk art collections, and forgotten cemeteries. There was never any doubt that I would spend my life learning to be an artist.

I’m a Leo Rising, Cancer Sun, and Scorpio Moon. So, I love melodrama, at least aesthetically. When I graduated from California High School (no joke) I thought I wanted to move to New York and join a traveling Shakespeare troupe. Instead I went to college, where I discovered painting and stage fright. Up until pretty recently my paintings were moderately large-scale pictures of people (mostly small groups of women) originating from photographs I took, and sometimes also from parties I instigated around a specific theme. Since then, my practice has grown to include performance, video, sound, movement, installation, writing, and other media, allowing for collaboration and interpretation on the part of the performers and the viewers. As an interdisciplinary artist, my work is both research-based and intuitive, and each body of work is responsive to the nature of the space it is shown in.

Besides painting, which remains a meditative cornerstone in my practice, the act of directing has become a really important generative impulse for me. My show “The Box Set: A Solo Exhibition in Four Acts” at Age of Art Multiples in 2016 was a series of four performance-based installations about counting from one to four, or the quality of quantity. Each event was a collaboration between a painting, a group of performers specific to the event, some objects, and the viewers. I had the opportunity of working with more than twenty performers for this project, including dancers, high school thespians, a DJ, and a goat.

In some ways, my recent work has narrowed in scope: I have been making small watercolor and gouache paintings on paper, and my last video was in collaboration with a single performer. However, the end result could hardly be considered minimal. “STAR DECK Academy”, which opened at Elephant Art Space last year, featured one hundred 5” x 7” paintings, 144 short videos, and a deck of cards. Maybe next time…

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
“The mission of STAR DECK Academy is to explore the physical and symbolic connections between mind, body, spirit and matter through the language of Our Solar System. The point of orientation is Earth, by which is meant The Native, a role we all play beginning at the moment of birth.”

My work is fueled by a desire to see, to understand, to locate, to move beyond; anchored in the knowledge of the circle, but invested in the hope of the spiral. The 56-card Academy Star Deck featured in the show is an attempt to discern the collective pull of the major planetary bodies through the creation of a series of symbols (i.e. “paintings”). In the AstroAerobics Lab, a video piece starring artist and mover Chelsea Rector, constellations are explored in relation to the body so as to understand through experience the many variables present within a given natal chart (i.e. “life”).

Presently in my studio I am continuing to explore the visual and kinetic language of the stars through various means. The somewhat singular symbols created for “STAR DECK Academy” have begun to grow into maps or star charts pointing to a specific time and place, often connected to a movement (the new moon solar eclipse in Leo on August 11, or Chiron moving from Pisces to Aries), and through the inevitable lens of my own associations and experiences. I’m also searching for portals in ancient artifacts and I’m thinking about making some papier-mâché hats.

“What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?”
Art in LA is doing just fine. Art will continue to thrive where little else survives because it needs to; because creating is living, and artists make in order to understand – even when no one’s looking, even when they don’t call it art. But more to the point, “the arts” are alive and well in Los Angeles for two distinct reasons. First, because this is The Promised Land. It’s Hollywood, it’s The Beach, it’s a fresh start without the baggage of New York. There is a rich and complicated history of making and creating and becoming in this city. It’s a great place to start a spiritual movement, a cult, a movie studio, or a gallery. And that’s number two: art is a business, and it will find a way to make a profit, even at the expense of communities and real, living artists.

What can the city do to support the arts? Grants, funding, and access for arts organizations and artists at the local government level is always appreciated. But the city should also help to preserve and nourish the diverse communities that already exist. If you appreciate a neighborhood, then support the people and businesses that make it unique, and think twice about opening up a new art space that does not meet the needs of the people who live there.

What can you, an individual, do to support individual artists? So much! Support artist-run and alternative spaces that have a positive connection to their communities, and question the impact of spaces that don’t appear to. Go see music, textiles, performance or poetry that stretches your understanding of art. Start an art collection, pay real prices, and cherish the pieces you own. Pay your DJs in something other than free drinks. Support artists in the jobs they take on in order to continue making fine art (free-lance design work, teaching, bartending). Know that many fine artists will never see a financial pay-off for the work they create, and find ways to show your appreciation for the service they provide and the conversations they begin.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Sign up for my mailing list on my website (where you can see a lot of my work), and I’ll let you know when I have a show or event coming up. I have a studio in Chinatown, and I love visitors. I’ll be pressing a second edition of The Academy Star Deck soon, and I’ve started taking a few commissions for astrological drawings. Also, there’s Instagram.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Josh Schaedel and Clarke Henry.

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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