This week's Question of the Day host is Seattle artist Erin Frost, who makes work that revels in its own vulnerability. Unlike static portraiture, which often aims to capture a singular iconic moment, Frost's video self-portraits are an ongoing negotiation with time. Flowers bloom and decay, their fragile beauty made more vivid by the temporality of their presence. The artist's body follows suit, in imperceptibly slow motion.
We asked Erin some questions about vulnerability, self-portraiture and devotion, and her responses are every bit as tender and powerful as her images. Enjoy!
What aspects of another person make a good first impression on you?
The first things I notice about someone is eye contact, and if they smile easily. I’m drawn to people that have an ease about them, that aren’t afraid to reveal themselves, that are comfortable in their own skin. If we’ve just met and can make each other laugh, then we’re off to a good start.
"If we’ve just met and can make each other laugh, then we’re off to a good start." [Tweet this]
We tend to think of selfies as something very contemporary, but many art historians believe that paleolithic Venus figurines—some of the most ancient representations of the human form—might have actually been self portraits. What have you learned about yourself by making photos and videos that incorporate your body? Is there something in particular that these images communicate, beyond their beauty and formalism?
It makes sense that first (and ongoing) representations would be from the POV of self, that is how we know the world. It’s telling that the assumption has been that these early figures were representations of how women were viewed vs. women viewing themselves. Looking at more current works, women’s self portraiture through film, video, performance, etc. is fascinating. Exposing and documenting vulnerable bodies, empowered bodies, and reclaiming the gaze.
I think about this a lot, why do we create this work, I mean why do we create anything at all? Why this incessant drive to communicate? To share ourselves? The answers are beyond me, but I do know that I create primarily out of compulsion. I’m comfortable in the fact that I usually don’t know what it is I’m after, and let myself produce from a place of intuition. I use myself for my work because it’s the most intimate way I can create- speaking from this point of view, this space I inhabit. Using this temporal body while I have access; exploring transformation, documenting both reality and heightened states of sensuality and self. Expressing true and constructed realities.
For a time this work might have been more out of self preservation, a testament to my presence. But now it’s become more about letting things unfold; exploring transformation, giving in to mysteries, investigating beauty and impermanence.
"Why do we create anything at all? Why this incessant drive to communicate? To share ourselves?" [Tweet this]
According to the researcher Brené Brown, the happiest, most connected people are those who are able to embrace vulnerability. How do you embrace vulnerability in your life? In your art?
Thank you for asking this question! Brené Brown has come up in conversation recently but this question was the catalyst for starting to investigate her. I watched one of her TED Talks this morning and she said “To feel vulnerable is to be alive," we can either push this away or we can embrace it. We can be courageous in our connections, accepting of our flaws, and believe we are worthy of love.
The last few years have taught me a lot about vulnerability. I think being open to grief, (and by open I mean really investigating it, sitting with the hard stuff) is a potent way to learn about ourselves, our capability. Knowing the depth of our grief is a perfect reflection of the depth of our capacity for love and pleasure. They’re forever linked and accepting both is really accepting ourselves. That’s what I’ve been learning. Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand, in life and in art.
I’d like to think that in my life I practice vulnerability by being open, I show much more of myself now. I want us to really see each other. Life and art aren’t always easily distinguishable for me, there’s a lot of overlap. But I do try to create from a place of self acceptance and honesty. I’m giving platform to facets of myself, creating from a place without fear, without edit. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it comes through it feels amazing. It’s a work in progress.
"Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand, in life and in art." [Tweet this]
Earlier this year I had a tincture made at Sugar Pill that I call a “Love Potion.” A main ingredient was the essence of Cherry Blossom for the reason that they bloom with abandon. These petals capture us because of their intensity and their fleeting nature. They explode in bloom without fear of what comes next. And isn’t that what vulnerability is? Isn’t that a beautiful lesson of learning to love ourselves, and in turn, others? And isn’t living with love, with openness, a radical act?
"Isn't living with love, with openness, a radical act?" [Tweet this]
How do you define ‘love’?
The answer is maybe beyond my scope, is it definable? It's intangible, a mystery in so many ways. But I believe it's paramount to human experience. It's an action, a practice. It's an energy that fuels our sense of belonging. It is something I have always believed is the fundamental point of my existence.
Do you think making art can be an act of devotion?
Yes, completely. Devotion is a beautiful word and it makes me think of the divine, acts of connectedness, acts of love. I think there’s devotion to creativity and devotion to self. Creating is, in many ways, exploring the divine self, and finding ways to express these findings.
What are your favorite smells?
I love earthy smells; wet soil, fleeting lilac in the spring, the way my skin smells when it’s been soaking up sun. I also really love smells of familiarity, the way those close to me smell. Some of my favorite smells are those that conjure memory - and I love that I forget what these are until those magical moments when it happens.
What is something interesting about you that almost no one knows?
I’m a natural blonde.