Briefly describe the work you do.
My sculptural works are intricate and expansive microcosms that primarily investigate psychological phenomena. I like to create objects that can be contemplated as a cohesive whole, yet are laden with meticulous, little details that allow viewers to explore the piece and gradually unravel more and more layers of meaning. For me, the concept of being able to explore a piece is much more exciting than just a passive gaze. I find both to be valid and important ways of looking at art, but like to invite a more investigative experience with the work because I feel this sort of analysis runs parallel to how I conduct myself in the world. Dealing with themes of cognition and how one’s mind relates to the physical world, the duality of interior and exterior is also frequently present in the works. I often illustrate this by utilizing furniture as well as architectural components; contrasting objects that surround us in a home-like setting with the structures that surround us in the street and create our public atmosphere.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up as an only child in rural Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh; a place often referred to affectionately as Pennsyltucky. I spent a lot of my childhood alone in the woods for hours on end going on adventures. I definitely see my aesthetic being influenced by the woods. Not in the sense of overall appearance—I definitely wouldn’t call my work organic—but in the very detailed way that I make. One thing I remember doing a lot is looking at a spot in the woods, usually on the ground, and then getting gradually closer to it. It sounds really mundane, but it’s an amazing thing. If you hone in on a point like this in nature all of these little details start coming out. Colors change, you start to notice little insects moving, miniscule little sprouts of whatever plants are there become very apparent, little shells and exoskeletons emerge, etc. etc. I think the only child factor probably influences my psychological themes in a roundabout way. I would spend a fair amount of time in my own head questioning things, almost having conversations with myself, and I still do a lot of that today.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I definitely perpetuate the stereotype of the artist locked away in some room by him/herself—at least part of the time. There is a reflection period where I am by myself in a room staring off into space and scribbling notes and little drawings. To an outsider, I’m sure it would probably look like I’m stoned or something, but it’s just a process of conceptualizing what the current pieces I’m working on are really about. Almost like a distillation method I suppose; taking the original idea I had for a work and making sure I’m articulating it in the best way, or asking myself if that idea isn’t what the piece is about anymore. This time then, of course, is cut with the much more exciting building phase. I prefer to be around other people in the shop. There’s much more energy with people around, it’s nice to ask for bits of feedback here and there, joke around with and feel motivated by each other, and then the reassurance of knowing if you cut your hand off there’s someone who will get you to a hospital.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Handyman is definitely one. Just generally “that guy that fixes stuff.” It’s not a terrible role to play because I do like putting things together. I also have this weird mental image of myself (artists in general, really) as some sort of comedic witchdoctor. I guess just because everything is so scientific, logical and pragmatic in how most of society works today, the practice of art-making makes me feel like I’m practicing some sort of creative magic—as if I’m this aging guru in an old bus down by the river that rambles on about perception and Euclidean space, whittling faces out of wooden door knobs.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
The nighttime is the right time for me. The critic Jerry Saltz does this thing where he calls artists vampires, and I really enjoy it and find it fitting. It’s like I’m tired around 10pm every night and then all of a sudden I look at the clock at its 4am and all of these things got made. I think the lack of distraction that the night offers is really nice. I do more of my boring, yet oh-so-necessary, computer work during the day.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
It’s completely different. I was drawing with pastels and painting watercolors five years ago, which are almost the only two things that I don’t really do today. I think I’m still interested in the same sort of things visually, just using them in a completely different format.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I’m really influenced by a lot of the friends I’ve worked around or collaborated with in the past. I had the very fortunate experience of completing my undergraduate studies with a slew of extremely talented people, and looking at their work continues to inspire me. Writers and philosophers definitely impact me too. Some of the most recent influences have been the linguist Steven Pinker and the writings of David Abram—particularly The Spell of the Sensuous. Steven Hawking and Slavoj Žižek will continue to blow my mind too.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Probably a neurologist, an astronomer, or a forest ecologist. They all touch on things that fascinate me, and honestly, I feel like I became an artist because of an inability to pick just one thing to be interested in. The beautiful thing about contemporary art is that it can pull inspiration from anywhere that you can possibly think of and create a dialogue about it in a new forum. I love that.
Eli Blasko holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and has also studied Intermedia at The Academy of Fine Art & Design in Bratislava, Slovakia as well as Traditional Blacksmithing at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, PA. Blasko’s practice spans a wide range of media, primarily focusing on sculpture, but also incorporating methods of printmaking, performance, and video. Thematically, his work embraces notions of uncertainty that present themselves while exploring psychological phenomena such as memory, cognition, learning, and play. Blasko is an internationally exhibiting artist, most recently showing and lecturing on his work at The Sculpture X Conference hosted by The Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, OH. In February of 2013, he was an Artist-in-Residence through the Paducah Arts Alliance in Paducah, KY and is currently a resident artist at Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, SC.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.