Erica Hart is a multi-media artist based in Montreal whose art is grounded largely in a desire to promote community building. Throughout their artistic career, Hart has explored everything from performance art to tattooing in pursuit of what they find inspiring. They are the co-founder of the art collective somewhere shared and also run an online store where they sell some of their art. We spoke with them about their history in creativity and how creative exploration is present in their everyday life.
You are a multimedia artist who creates in many mediums. Explain to us your artistic practices and how they inform one another.
Yes, I love working with multimedia. I’m an interdisciplinary artist exploring how we move through the world through the natural and supernatural, the conscious and the subconscious. All of my work is influenced by psychology, therapy, and mental health. More specifically, I explore connection, vulnerability, shame, play, intimacy, healing, and childhood through performance art, sculpture and illustrative symbolism in drawing and painting. I also love graphic design & music.
How were you first introduced to art?
I was introduced to art from a very early age. I grew up in a creative household–my parents sang in choirs, my siblings were interested in film, the performing arts and visual art. They all really made space for me to just be myself and explore. I liked spending time by myself when I was young, I could occupy myself for hours just drawing and building things with my toys. Come to think of it, I’ve always loved multimedia because I’ve always had my fingers in many pies! I sang, played instruments, took dance lessons, and loved art class. When I saw something that inspired me or something that I want, I like to figure out a way to make it myself, even from a young age — I wanted my doll to have a bike so I took a tissue box, some Scholastic Skyrocopters (as the wheels) and some sticks (for the axles) to make a bike. Anyway, later on in high school, I had a teacher for a “Non-Traditional Art Class.” I don’t know if he’d want his name published but he really taught me about the obscure, the silly, and how beautiful the mundane could be. I learned about art happenings and performance art. That’s when I first learned about early performance art by Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, Marina Abramovic, and Ron Athey. In grade 12 I did my first performance piece, it was a 10-second video of me trying to flip through a magazine with my hands wrapped in tape, sticky side facing out. That was around the same time my friends and I formed an art collective– we made zines and did weird shit around the school. I think it entertained us the most out of anyone, it was fun.
Your art feels like an outlet for both creativity and self-exploration. How has creating impacted your relationship with yourself?
Yes, they really go hand-in-hand. I think how it’s impacted my relationship to myself the most, is having a better understanding of what kind of creator I want to be. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with other creators about the capitalist need to monetize everything we create which feels icky and being an artist on social media which creates a pressure to constantly turn out work online. Anyway, it’s made room for a lot of self-reflection. I’ve done the art gallery thing, I’ve had an online shop, I’ve done the art market thing, and I loved all of it and I’d do it again but it didn’t fulfill me long term. That’s why I’m moving towards more slow art, small-batch creations, community building and connection.
After years of working as an artist, how has creativity become present in your everyday life?
I like to believe that creativity is present in all of our lives, all the time. It’s not always beautiful and curated but it can be art, and it can be creative. I like to look at the things I do day-to-day as modes of creation. The mundane can be an art project. In 2018 I did a project called Liberation where I performed and filmed a movement meditation. In 2019 I made Hugging Project. 2019 was really hard for me emotionally, I felt like my child self so I hugged myself every day for a month. I was self-soothing. I also asked my friends to try hugging themselves too and I documented all of it. Again, I’m just taking daily practices and using it as a tool to create art. By themselves, they’re personal practices which I value deeply, and when I document them, they become something else. They become performance art, video art, and photography. Eating breakfast can be art. Washing your hands can be art.
What mediums currently excite you the most, what draws you to these specific creative outlets?
I’ll always be pulled towards performance art in one way or another, especially performance with someone else. My friend Rae and I did an improvisation performance called Connection Suit. I sewed the arms of two sweaters together, we put them on and moved around. It was one of the most intimate experiences of my life. Our eyes were closed so we really had to just listen to each other’s breath and body. We weren’t trying to look polished either, the intention was just to connect. I’m so excited to do that again. I’ve also been experimenting with construction materials like expanding foam and concrete to make functional sculptures. It’s really messy and fun to play with. I think what draws me to a creative outlet is connection, healing, and play.
You hold a BFA in interdisciplinary art from Concordia, how did that formal educational experience shape your growth as an artist?
Maybe it’s different now, but in school our art projects were always displayed on pristine white walls and there was a huge emphasis on learning how to be an artist who shows work in institutions. That wasn’t for me so it motivated me to figure out how artists could exist if they didn’t show in galleries. I did take grant writing courses which were helpful and Concordia has great studios so having the space and access to materials meant I could think about making work bigger than my tiny bedroom. To be completely honest, I didn’t need that degree to make art, but I’m grateful for the experiences I gained during that time. What having a formal education helped me with the most is probably my time management skills, haha.
Much of your art is rooted in a connection between the natural world and more supernatural elements. Tell me about this source of inspiration and what it means to you.
To me, this means a connection between the physical and the metaphysical, like the body and energy. I’m inspired by things we can see and things we can’t see, but we feel.
A lot of your work is in creating art that acts as a source of connection and is available without the restriction of a paywall. Why is creating things like free journal prompts, and art prompts important to you?
I mean, nobody needs me to tell them what journal prompts or art prompts to use, everybody can come to that on their own, so you shouldnt have to pay for it. Also for things like journal prompts, there’s so many ideas out there that are different versions of the same thing, so paying for it feels unnecessary. All of the free downloads I make are things that I genuinely use myself, they’ve helped me, prompted healing, and inspired me. So if it can make me feel that way, I’m just happy to share it so that someone else can connect to it too. Also art can be expensive, so I like to post free prints once in a while so that if you want my art, you can have it for free and print it yourself.
Much of your art seems to be created with the purpose of community building. Is this true? Why is cultivating connection through art important to you?
I’m glad that’s coming through because that is really what I’m trying to move towards with my practice. What I’m trying to move towards is cultivating community, sharing resources, motivating one-another & hopefully at some point, teaching. Cultivating connection through art is important to me because I’m so inspired by community and other artists. Being a maker, artist or creator can sometimes be lonely or isolating– especially right now. Also, I think sharing resources and techniques is so important for creative exploration and growth. There is a lot of info on the internet, but sometimes very niche techniques are hard to find. Like those concrete functional sculptures I was making, I spent hours online trying to figure out how to make the concrete stick to foam. It was kind of a headache and ultimately just up to trial and error. I’d love to be able to share that with other people if they wanted to try it themselves. I created a discord community recently so that people with similar interests can come together, connect, and also share their artwork and get feedback, ask for help and share resources. At least that’s the goal, it’s still in the early stages.
What is inspiring you right now?
Right now I’m reading The Body Keeps The Score. It talks about decades of research relating the effects of psychological trauma. It’s super intense but and inspiraing and I’m learning a lot from it. I’m also obsessed with people making art and sculptures out of bread right now. There’s this one person I follow who made a mermaid out of pizza dough I think. It’s so weird and funny but also so beautiful! I’m taking a jewelry making class right now so I’m also really into jewelry design right now, especially jewelry with more organic shapes. I’ll also forever and always be fascinated by symbolism, the history of symbols, and how symbols become associated with what we know now. I have a few books on symbolism that I like to flip through now and then.
Who are five other Montreal artists you think we should know about? Why do you like their work?
Big shout out to my dear friend and love Rae. They are a jack of all trades, they draw, do tattoos, they’re one of my favourite mover/dancers and one of the most skilled and meticulous fiber artists I know. They make amazing wearable art. Ulysse is a wild jewelry designer who handcrafts gorgeous organic, medieval looking silver jewelry. They’re truly like a special sculptural charm. Daniela of Earth Note Scents works in earth-based fragrances. Daniela’s handcrafted scents smell amazing and genuinely lift my spirits. I’m also such a huge fan of their artistic direction and they’re a beautiful writer. Malaika is a graphic designer, illustrator, writer and video & event producer. They are also the co-founder of Also Cool Mag. Their illustration/design is playful, colourful, and eye catching, they host the most amazing events, & they’re fantastic writer. I really admire everything they do–they put so much heart into all of their endeavors. Camila Gaza Manly of Lysvonasta makes beautiful, one-of-a-kind sculptural paper lampshades. Some other honourable mentions are @Joniontherun, a photographer/stylist/designer who makes everything so dreamy. Also Soft Serve Pillows who makes playfully shaped pillows and Jagged Little Thrills who makes colourful crochet pieces and adnorments.
Where would you like to see your creative pursuits go from here?
From here I’d love to continue to cultivate community through art and creation, I want to focus more on slow creation and move towards more environmentally conscious art making. I would love to one day host a class or teach. I also would love to keep learning and gain new skills. Long term, I envision a space where friends and creators can host some classes and people can drop in to make art together. That’s the dream. Anyway, I’m happy to create as long as it’s fun, explorative and I’m learning something from it.
She is a writer, photographer, and graphic designer based in Montreal. Kate is currently in her final year of her B.A. at McGill University where she is double majoring in history and art history.
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