Meet Erin McGean

TNG: What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?

EM: A typical day in the studio for me actually involves immersing myself in the creative process. I start by setting up my workspace, gathering my materials, and creating a conducive atmosphere, which means music and good lighting. I spend time researching and gathering inspiration from various sources, including my vast collection of vintage imagery. Then, I delve into the process of creating collages, using a range of techniques such as subtle manipulations to stop  motion animation. Experimentation and exploration are key elements of my creative practice. My studio is an absolute mess most days because of it. 

TNG: What is your creative process for starting a new body of work or exhibition?

EM: When starting a new body of work or exhibition, I begin by conceptualizing the central themes and ideas I want to explore, making notes and sometimes doing rough digital sketches or very small colleges. Usually I also do a bit of research and reflection, drawing inspiration from books, the internet and  other artists. The research phase helps me develop a cohesive concept and visual language for the body of work. From there, I move on to the hands-on creation process, experimenting with different types of shapes, compositions or cuts.

TNG: What artists or art works have inspired you the most in your career?

EM: Matisse, Man Ray, Hannah Hoch, Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Deborah Roberts, Frida Kahlo. Anything from the Dada period. 

TNG: As an artist working with digital media in the Web3 world, how important do you think it is that your work gets exhibited in a physical gallery space?

EM: I believe there is great importance in both digital and physical exhibition spaces. The digital realm offers vast opportunities for global reach, accessibility, and interactivity. However, the physical gallery space still holds its unique charm, providing a tangible and immersive experience for viewers. Exhibiting work in physical galleries allows for a more intimate and tactile engagement with the artwork, creating a different kind of connection and ambiance. 

TNG: Your artistic practice revolves around challenging traditional representations of women in art and reclaiming the female body from the male gaze. Could you discuss the motivations and inspirations behind this focus in your work?

EM: The motivation for most of my college work is deeply rooted in the persuasive power of the media. Growing up, I was exposed to a barrage of images and narratives in fashion magazines, movies from the 80s, and even Disney films, all of which conveyed specific ideals of femininity. These influential mediums subtly communicated societal norms and expectations, shaping my perception of how I should look, behave, and fulfill certain roles. As I got older I recognized the persuasive nature of media and its ability to mold individuals' self-image and aspirations. With collage I can recontextualize and subvert these familiar images and invite viewers to see the familiar in new ways.

TNG: Could you elaborate on the techniques you employ in your collage work, from subtle manipulations to bold juxtapositions? How do these techniques contribute to subverting and challenging the objectification of women in art?

EM: Well, many of my collages use only a few images. Finding the perfect mix of images to tell my story can take months for some pieces. I may really like one image but struggle to find others that compliment the first to tell a unique and personal story. Subtle manipulations may involve altering the context or composition of an image just slightly to challenge its original meaning. With bold juxtapositions I am to create unexpected connections and juxtapose contrasting elements to provoke thought and invite reinterpretation.

TNG: The portrayal of femininity is a central theme in your artwork. How do you approach creating a nuanced and multi-dimensional portrayal of femininity through the layering and combination of images?

EM: For me, this part involves careful consideration of the visual elements, symbolism, and narratives within each piece. Every  piece is about my own experiences in some way so the selection of the figure must resonate with me. This might be a memory from childhood or my experiences as a mother, or the stories that other women have shared with me. The figures are then placed in spaces and scenes that might not make total sense and can be read in a variety of ways. The figure is often ambiguous so many others might be able to relate to the scene. 

TNG: Art has the ability to provoke discussions and initiate societal change. How do you see your work contributing to broader conversations about gender, representation, and the female experience?

EM: Because my collages draw from images and ideologies of the past, the work can spark conversations about historical representation and the female experience. By studying prevalent stereotypes and visual cues found in media and advertising, I reveal their power and societal influence. My work challenges viewers to critically examine these influences and question the limited representations of femininity. Cutting and deconstructing these images offers alternative perspectives and can inspire discussions about the impact of media on our perceptions. 

TNG: Lastly, what message or impact do you hope to leave on viewers who engage with your art, particularly regarding their perceptions of femininity, representation, and the power of recontextualization?

EM: My intention is not to impose a specific message on viewers who engage with my art. Instead, I want to create work that is open for interpretation and encourages viewers to question familiar images and narratives. In recontextualizing these familiar visuals, I want to observe individuals' reactions and personal connections and perhaps prompt conversation on perceptions of femininity, representation, and the power of recontextualization without pushing a specific agenda or advocating for a particular form of feminism. I guess what I hope for is a range of  individual interpretations and diverse responses to help me shape the meaning and my own understanding of my art.