Give Now

Artist In The Making: Putting It Out There, Moving On

When Erin Castellan’s paintings go on view for her thesis show at the Grunwald Gallery, it's a significant milestone in this emerging artist's journey.

In a recent interview, novelist Anne Tyler said that once her books are accepted by the publisher, she’s “like a mother cat with kittens. I never think about them again. They’re gone.”

Once Erin Castellan hangs her MFA work in the Grunwald Gallery, the feeling is somewhat akin.

“The first couple of days after it was hung, it felt like it didn’t belong to me any more,”  Castellan remarks.  “You have all those months where it’s very close, and you touch it and you work on it, and you know it intimately, and then suddenly it’s here and  it feels like some long lost friend that you’ve had a separation from.  It’s part of everyone else’s life now and no longer belongs solely to you.  So there is that strange remove.”

Frozen Tension

The mixed media works Castellan has included showcase her mixed media process, which involves cutting burlap into irregular shapes, soaking it in multiple layers of wall paint until it becomes rigid, adjoining freely draped fabric swaths to it, and embellishing the surface with hand-painted detail and embroidery.  It’s a highly empirical, self-directed process, whereby Castellan hopes to achieve a state of “frozen tension,” as she characterizes it.

The works’ apparent staticity–and the degree to which gravity is implicated–has been a source of consistent discussion in critiques over the two years of the MFA program.  At least one of the works in the show– Perception Shift–addresses that line of inquiry, contrasting a rigid lower piece pushing upward with material that cascades down from the top of the piece.

Resisting Gravity, Or Yielding To It

Although she chose–in at least this one piece–to incorporate her professors’ challenge that she resist gravity, she’s not convinced that the piece achieves the meanings she is interested in pursuing.

“It is important to me that these things feel somewhat vulnerable,” explains Castellan.  “They literally can’t support themselves–they hang, and they are acted upon by gravity.  I as a human can connect with them more because they have that vulnerability–in combination with the strength  implicit in the marks of time and history [registered by the embroidery and hand-painted areas].”

Culminating two years of graduate work, the MFA show could provide a nice opportunity for a break.

Castellan took off a week, but she’s back in the studio pursuing new directions.  “Working toward this thesis show was frustrating in that I couldn’t work on a million things at once.  I like to have everything going at once, at different stages in the process, so that if I feel like painting one day, I can paint; if I feel like sitting down and embroidering, I can do that.  So finally I can get back to what I enjoy.”

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Visual Arts Stories

Visual Arts Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Earth Eats

La Cocina: A Food Business Incubator For Immigrant Women

Since 2005, San Francisco's La Cocina has helped low-income entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Some went on to recognition from the prestigious James Beard awards. A new book tells their stories.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers


Some people love specific plants just because of their scent.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »