Six questions for
Eli Craven

Tique | art paper asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Eli Craven.

Artist Eli Craven
Lives in Boise, Idaho USA

How do you describe your own art practice?

My art practice is about images – the desire to see them, the hidden meanings within them, and their physical potential. The act of looking is central to the process and I draw attention to the act through various methods of concealment and reconfiguration of the materials. I use photography, sculpture, video, and collage to create narratives exploring the familiar to the bizarre, as well as the erotic nature of images.

What was your first experience with art?

As a child, I can remember watching my father paint in our basement. He created photo-realistic watercolors of the American West, mostly barns, horses, and mountains. He would try to give me painting lessons, but I wasn’t interested. I thought that was all artists did – landscape paintings. Inevitably, I discovered there was more to art when I went to college. I came across a John Baldessari monograph. I think that was when I first experienced the potential of art. I was obsessed.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Probably found materials. It is prevalent in my work. I spend a lot of time at thrift stores and estate sales thinking about what people discard or leave behind when they are gone. Ideas arrive during the search for materials.

What do you need in order to create your work?

The tools vary depending on what I am creating. My current work requires access to a woodshop, but I can’t manage without a camera, a computer, and a sharp blade.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just completed an exhibition created in collaboration with architect/artist Maria Chavez titled Swimming and Diving. We spent most of the past year sharing a studio and creating the work together. The exhibition started as a reinterpretation of the American Red Cross “Swimming and Diving” safety manual. The installation explores the idea of human value through safety and failure with manipulated photographs, obstructed video of swimming instruction, and sculptural safety devices with questionable reliability.

Currently, I am returning to a thread of research about images unseen, restricted, hidden, or unwanted. I’m thinking about death and ritual, secret societies and the desire to see the unknown.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

Eva Kot’átková. She is a visual artist from Prague, Czech Republic. I am currently looking at her book “Pictorial Atlas of a Girl Who Cut a Library Into Pieces.”

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