MFA student turns insulation into art

Eric Ford explains how he uses common items to express unexpected message

· Apr 3, 2018 Tweet

Courtesy of Eric Ford

Artist and MFA student with an emphasis in sculpture Eric Ford uses commercial construction materials to create his works of art. What is special about Ford’s method is that he takes the ordinary and makes it unrecognizable.

Ford tends to look for the materials to create his sculptures at the hardware store. He has an ultimate goal for this process to create his work.

“I transform material to the point where it is ambiguous and no longer blatantly identifiable,” Ford said.

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Though he manipulates his materials, he stays true to what they essentially are.

More often than not, the materials he selects require a certain amount of handling. Ford likes to shred, count, sort, wrap, poke, prod, organize, fiddle with and of course admire his materials.

“I am also attracted to things that are brightly colored or extremely dull and muted, but I prefer not to change the color of a material — I would rather use the color inherent to it,” Ford said.

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For a sculpture featured in one of his recent shows, Ford used pink Owens Corning brand insulation. He loved the marble color, ranging from white with a hint of pink, swirled in with dark, rich and highly pigmented shades of the color.

Ford found the malleable material ideal to work with. He said this material was perfect for what he was trying to achieve.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Ford said.

For this work, Ford built upon what insulation means to him, to retain heat and keep unwanted drafts or cold airflow out. He connected this to his work and the impact he wanted to make.

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The insulative quality of the material is used conceptually with ideas of protection because as humans, we protect or insulate ourselves from undesirables — in any sense of the word, Ford said. He also found the ambivalence of the material itself alluring.

“This protection of the self can come in the form of things like the repression of thoughts, feelings, and emotion, as the first line of defense. Repeated suppression of these things can ultimately lead to a breaking point that could manifest in an outward presentation of internal struggle; this point is where my work positions itself.” 

Outside of sculpture, Ford uses two-dimensional mediums like painting, drawing and printmaking to explore more sculptural ideas. He finds that his conceptual framework can function in a variety of different art practices, so he likes to investigate whenever necessary.

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Prior to pursuing an MFA degree at the University of Wisconsin, Ford studied sculpture during his undergrad at a small school in Ohio. He hopes to find a career where he can have studio time while also teaching. His professors inspire him to facilitate a rich and encouraging environment for learning and art-making.

Like many students, Ford finds time management difficult as a member of the MFA program. Between art shows, studio time and research papers, not much time is left. Yet based on the professional quality of his work, he seems to be managing just fine.

Ford finds inspiration from a handful of artists like Eva Hesse, Nairy Baghramian and Anne Truitt, though his list goes on much longer. The minimalist movement also heavily influences his sculptures.

More of Ford’s art is on display at his show at the Abel Contemporary Gallery in Paoli, Wisconsin. The show runs this summer from the middle of June until late July.


This article was published Apr 3, 2018 at 1:16 pm and last updated Apr 3, 2018 at 9:49 am


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