The past 12 months have been a period of productivity and growth for Erin Eardley. “Through My Eyes” is the artist photographer’s first solo exhibition. Of the 74 works currently on display at the WAG, only three were executed before February 2019.
What changed a year ago? Erin tells me she had a kind of spiritual epiphany. It felt to her as though she was in the care of a divine presence. I detect a sense of relief as she says this. She later explains that, until then, all aspects of her life were ruled by fear. I understand that her experience of February 2019 made her feel safe, which in turn led to a growing self-confidence and feeling of self-worth. And along with these came an acceptance of vulnerability. A solo exhibition—especially a first—is nothing if not a display of vulnerability, but also a decisive foray into risk-taking.
Erin started art classes when she was a young child. “I was always thinking creatively,” she says. While her career path led to interior design, she continued to make art, working in collage, acrylic and pastel. She also enjoyed travel, which gave her the opportunity to develop her photographic skills. But she never considered exhibiting her work.
“Through My Eyes” demonstrates two strains of creativity: mixed media collages that express emotional states, and experimental photographic manipulations. The former make reference to very personal experiences involving friendship and reconnection to family. They present as large 3-D compositions incorporating found images, trinkets gathered over a lifetime, and significant text, “gratitude”, “hope” and “grace” among the words interwoven through the surface elements.
Erin’s photographs, on the other hand, appear in sizes varying from huge to tiny. A few are traditional, but most are altered to take on more painterly qualities, or to astonish with heightened colour saturation. Interestingly, some of the photos are details of the mixed media works in the show. The majority, however, represent manipulations of old images taken during earlier trips to Quebec City, Spain, Greece and Mexico. Traditional and manipulated photos of Erin’s most recent trip, a 10-day 260-kilometre walk from Porto, Portugal, along the Camino de Santiago, also form part of this group. “Everything has a memory,” says Erin, referring to the events and experiences she has documented in order to arrive at the present moment.
THROUGH MY EYES runs from Feb. 5 to Mar. 1, with an opening reception on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.