ELI CRAVEN: Framed
ELI CRAVEN is an American artist, born in Idaho Falls, currently residing in Illinois. Using the mediums of photography, sculpture, and collage Eli explores the boundaries of image-art, including perception and transformation. Eli’s work has been exhibited across America, and all over the world, including Italy and the UK.
Interview by Emeline Loric
Let’s start at the beginning, were you creative as a child?
When I think back to my childhood it all appears very average as far as creativity is concerned. I thought everyone liked to draw, color, and create. We didn’t have the Internet or video games, my family didn’t have cable television. We were left to our own devices when entertaining ourselves. So, we were creative and we used our imagination. It seems we have a lot more options today. Now that we have the Internet to entertain us, maybe a creative youth is not as common as it once was.
How did you come to collage? You seem to be interested in exploring and pushing boundaries. Tell us about that…
Early on in my photography I took an interest in its materiality. I created a lot of my own photographs, but I was always more excited about the photograph itself and playing in the darkroom than I was about taking a photograph. It was during my project “Woman Alive” when I was photographing images from books and processing them in the darkroom that I came to collage. I started playing with the actual source image rather than reproducing it through the camera. Now I mix the two. Sometimes I create my own imagery through the camera and sometimes I use existing images and manipulate them.
I think my work is asking the viewer to slow down and take a second look. Investigate and experience what is in the frame and consider what has been hidden, removed, or repeated. If I am pushing any boundaries, I would like to think that I am exploring how we look at images today, and how we continue to perceive our roles in society through imagery.
By using existing and old photographs you allow them to live a second life. What part does the past have in your present? Is reminiscence essential in your creative process?
Reminiscence through the past is very important and my process is quite personal. My interest in using photography comes from my relationship to the images I saw when I was younger. I was always looking at music, skateboarding, and fashion magazines in my youth in the 80’s and 90’s. I think the imagery I was repeatedly exposed to shaped my personality and the aesthetics of my work. My work takes the past and transforms it into the present in a way that tests memory and I am always pushing to transform the way I see images.
In your series Screen Lovers you employ a folding technique to create a new realty. Is the trick of the eyes enough to trick the mind?
I think so. At least for a moment, enough to get someone to pause and think. Our imagination naturally wants to fill in blanks and solve puzzles when something is missing or out of order. “Screen Lovers” has been a fun project for me and even though some of them are disturbing, I found them comical and I think that viewers have a lot of fun with them too.
In your series Rare Earths, a hand is holding the illustration of various rare earths elements, treasures of the periodic table, tell us about this series, as an artist what is your relationship to Science.
My only relationship to Science is what I know of photographic chemistry, so I found access to the “Rare Earths” through my interpretation of the words and labels used. I approached the project through the language, both the language of photography and in general. I was interested in their label as “rare” and how we equate that to desire, even though many of the rare earths are quite abundant and are man-made. I was also thinking of the act of collecting the images of the elements and what that represents in photography. We have a tendency to trust the printed word and photograph as “true” without hesitation. I wanted to play with truth, representation, and how influential and trustworthy both Science and Photography can be.
Where do you feel the most creative?
In my studio. If I try to work from home, I get distracted. My studio is a place where I can step away from everything else, concentrate, and experiment with my materials. Although I tend to take inspiration from all that surrounds me, I need that separate space to process what I am thinking into the work.
If the universe inside you were to be contained in just one symbol, what would that symbol be?
That is a difficult question that I don’t think I have time to answer, and once I think about it, I’m sure my answer would change. I suppose it would be a square or rectangle. That shape seems to represent my obsession for the past few decades.
Published: April 8th, 2014