ERIKA SOMOGYI INTERVIEW
I was surprised to learn that you’re living in Brooklyn! Based on your work I would have guessed you were living in a log cabin somewhere in the pacific northwest! The evergreen tree shapes, the mountains, where is the imagery coming from?
Sometimes I wish I were living in a log cabin in the mountains. I have spent time backpacking and sleeping outside. I love visiting the national parks. The natural imagery I use in my work comes from my travels, photos I have taken, photos I have borrowed, field studies and memories. One aspect of the work I have been making is the longing for a connection with nature. The lack of expansive wilderness here is a big part of that. In a way I feel transported by the paintings.
I think you’d love it here in British Columbia! We have lots of mountains, lakes, and trails. On the other hand, I like the idea that your work is about this longing, like an intense memory that over time has become more fantasy than reality. Maybe coming here would ruin that?
It would be so cool if I were coming out for the show! I don’t think it would ruin my work at all. It would be a great experience for me to spend some time there. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the art I make doesn’t just come from what I can see out my window. That would be the Manhattan skyline. I have a pretty nice view.
What was the last good concert you went to?
I recently saw Bob Dylan in NJ, in the pouring rain. It had to be the coldest day of the entire summer and I was drenched. He played a weird Like a Rolling Stone, but Girl from the North Country was amazing, and All Along the Watch Tower was awesome. I was really happy to be there and Dylan was really into it, dancing at the keyboard in his lavender suit and hat.
The last time Radiohead came to Vancouver it started to pour and as they closed with Paranoid Android the sold out stadium all sang the lyrics “rain down, rain down…” and it was a really spiritual moment. I’ve heard people describe your work as psychedelic, do they ever describe it as spiritual? Is it either of these things to you?
Ha, people do describe it as spiritual. I think both terms apply.
How do you pronounce your last name? Somogyi? Sah-mog-yee? What nationality is that?
So-moe-gee. So, as in “so what” moe, like “Moe, Larry, and Curly” and gee like “gee whiz” – although a Hungarian speaker may say it a bit different. My father is from a small town in Hungary. He came to New York City when he was 23.
Have you been to Hungary? I worked at a summer camp and the cook was from Hungary. She would tell me over and over how much I needed to see Budapest.
I went to visit family when I was very young and I don’t really remember it. I want to go back though. I still have family there.
Do you have more fun making paintings or sculptures?
I enjoy problem solving and making things. Painting and figuring out what I’m going to do are my favorite aspects of art making. The least interesting part to me is making the preliminary drawing on a blank piece of paper. It’s very tiring.
So do you usually start with complete drawings and then paint over them? Works like Major Meltdown seem more spontaneous, how much of that is premeditated?
Sometimes before the drawing I make a collage and then I make a very simple pencil drawing from that. I use it to help compose the painting. Major Meltdown is an unusual one. That painting is collaged from pieces of other works and then painted and drawn over again.
Would you like to end this with a quote?
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard
PS – It’s also her birthday on November 19th – so you can send her early Happy Birthday wishes in the comments!
See more of Erika’s work here: http://www.throughthetrees.net