Fri 9/2-Sun 10/16
During the late ’70s, Tom Petty’s “American Girl” contained perhaps his best lyrics: “She was raised on promises.”
Canton native Eric Rippert can relate, a child of the ’70s who later became a thriving visual artist. After practicing commercial photography in New York, he returned to Northeast Ohio, where he pursed his art while teaching photography at the University of Akron, Oberlin College and Baldwin Wallace University.
Today Rippert is readying his 8th solo exhibition Full of Promises which opens Fri 9/2 at the Maria Neil Art Project during Walk All Over Waterloo and will be on view through Sun 10/16. While known mostly as a photo-based artist, the new exhibit finds him spreading his wings.
CoolCleveland talked to Rippert about “Full of Promise.”
While past efforts are all photo-based, “Full of Promise” marks a new beginning.
Yes, this new show is sort of breaking out for me, an opportunity for me to showcase some other mediums like drawing and painting and sculpture and installation. Most people knew me from my photography, and I always wanted an opportunity to show some work that was not expected. So I was invited to do this show a year ago and I’ve been working ever since.
Was the impetus to explore other mediums as simple as you needed a new challenge?
I guess you could say that. Certainly a new challenge, but certainly there are themes and subjects and genres that maybe are better explained to your audience in another medium other than photography. Maybe the new ideas, which are based in old family photographs and vacations and memories of my youth, sort of informed the way I’m living now. So a lot of that material was taken from those photographs and I incorporated them with other mediums like painting and drawing.
It sounds like Full of Promise maintains a photo-based element?
There are photo-based elements. There are actual photographs, there are some prints made from photographs, some photographs that have painting and drawing on top of them. I’d say that almost all the work has a foot in photography but then they’re either embellished with paintings and drawings or they’re printed in a different manner.
At this point into your career, was there a risk to change speeds or does the experience feel liberating?
It’s actually a little bit of both. It’s risky because since I was an undergrad in 1989 I’ve been working with photography. To all of a sudden try new things it’s risky because I’m not sure how this is going to be received. I have a studio downtown where I work and spend a lot of time making this stuff by myself without people seeing it before it’s complete. That’s kind of the risk factor. You can show stuff on social media and count the thumbs up and likes but then that’s not a very good gauge as to whether or not people are relating to your work. But it’s also kind of liberating too because I’m getting to explore subjects that are more personal than based purely on photocentric aesthetics.
What is it you hope people take away from seeing Full of Promise?
Because the work has its roots in these old family photographs and revisiting my childhood and the way that I was brought up and the family vacations I went on, I think that during that time there were a lot of people who were experiencing the same thing. This was in the late ’70s. People can relate to some of the imagery and the references. I tip my hat to our pop cultural references to TV shows that we watched as kids. I’m hoping that people will go be reminded of something they haven’t thought about for a long time. Maybe something from their childhood or something from their past or just be aware of how someone else has experienced those same things.
It goes without saying that all work is personal to some degree, but it sounds like Full of Promise delves into your upbringing. Did the artistic experience prove to be difficult or cathartic?
I’m not a huge fan of getting cathartic release through art-making. That’s kind of never been where I come from. I know it’s something that a lot of people do. I think that there is an underlying, not like a traumatic, difficult, abusive kind of background, but there’s something about growing up in the ’70s where our parents were not necessarily the doting, hovering parents that are around today making everyone feel like a special snowflake. A lot of times we were left to be kind of feral and figure out how to do things on our own. I think that it’s definitely a different contrast to how I see younger people today but I’d say that revisiting those memories is neither bad or good, but they’re sort of helping me see how I came to be the adult that I am today.
Finally, if Fonzie saw Full of Promise, would he give it thumbs up and say “Ay?”
[laughs] Yes he would.