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Tri State Sculptors Association

Promoting public awareness and appreciation for sculpture in the VA, NC, and SC areas

Student Member Spotlight: Eli Blasko

Hometown:  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Current Location/ School:  Western Carolina University

What are you studying/ Current degrees:  I have a BFA from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania in 2012.  I also studied at the Studio of Intermedia+ at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia.  And currently working on an MFA degree in Sculpture.

Have you had any art -related jobs or internships?  I worked as a Studio Assistant for Ian F. Thomas while I was getting my BFA at Slippery Rock University. Ian showed me a lot of the professional practices of being a working artist, and that really helped me get a leg up when I finished school. How to submit applications, organize a decent CV, packing and shipping work, corresponding with galleries and patrons, and pricing were all things that he helped me with. It paid off big, as I ended up being accepted to several residencies in the first few years out of school (Paducah Arts Alliance, Hub-Bub, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Charles Adams Studio Project). Meeting people and getting to know different arts communities while doing these residencies is how I ended up in the region, and a big part of why I decided to stay in the Southeast instead of going back to Pittsburgh. From 2016-2019 I co-owned my own commercial public art company in Spartanburg, SC. We mostly focused on two-dimensional work, designing and painting murals, but also worked on several sculptural projects and wall reliefs over the course of those three years. We often worked with interior designers, architecture firms, and local small businesses, but also got some bigger contracts too. Our last project before dissolving was refurbishing and painting designs on three conjoined basketball courts for Adidas, which to date is the largest project I've ever worked on. I really love creative problem solving and figuring out how to make things that I don't already know how to make, and it was a super fun project to figure out logistically with many, many moving parts. In 2016, I also was the Artist of Record for a year-long project in Spartanburg called the Northside Artlet Project, which was generously funded by the NEA, ArtForce and Chapman Cultural Center. For the project, I moved my studio to Spartanburg's Northside neighborhood and taught carpentry lessons while working with community members to design four sculptural spaces based on their stories about and memories of the neighborhood. As a group, we also salvaged as much local material as we could from old houses before they were torn down to use in the sculptures. After a year, the individuals that had taken carpentry classes with me built the four forms alongside me in vacant lots around the Northside.

What is your favorite medium to work in?  Wood. I play with a lot of other materials and processes in my work, but I always seem to come back to wood. Several of my projects over the past few years have been initiated by researching the history of specific woodworking techniques or wooden objects.

Who are your favorite artists?  The list is always rotating, but my current favorites are: Lenka Clayton, Katie Hudnall, Postcommodity, Matthew Ronay, and Nicol├ís Lamas. They all make very different work from one another, but I think the unifying factor would be the clarity and uniqueness of their respective aesthetics. I always appreciate it when you can step back from an artist's entire body of work and look at different artworks, series, or exhibitions as being pieces of a larger conversation. I think that all of these artists do this brilliantly. I really like the novel ways that Clayton, Postcommodity, and Lamas approach their concepts, and appreciate the technical skills and craftsmanship of Hudnall and Ronay.

What is one of the most influential experiences or things you've learned while in school studying art / sculpture?   In 2019, during my first semester of grad school, I was selected to go to South Korea for a month to build and install a public sculpture for the Damyang International Arts Festival. It was a great experience, and I got to live and work alongside a group of incredible artists from all over the world, many of whom I've stayed in contact with.

Do you have an artist statement that helps the public understand your art?  My current body of work meddles in the lives of objects. Through playful intervention, I build, organize, attach, classify, deconstruct, exaggerate, and redistribute items to explore the logic underlying the systems of which they are a part. I am interested in how power manifests and perpetuates itself through our interactions with objects, spaces and one another. Sometimes this happens in conspicuous ways via things like maps and architecture, but often it is more subtle: the color of tools, the placement of signage, or items glossed over by history books. My work starts with observations like these, and translates them into projects that question conventional rules, biases, values, protocols and frameworks in a way that disputes their normalcy and influence, often by pushing our thinking about them into the realm of the poetic and absurd.

Anything else that you would like to share about yourself that would help us make your spotlight more interesting??

I'm currently working with the WCU Fine Art Museum and our campus Public Art Committee to install a temporary outdoor piece called "Desire" for my MFA thesis exhibition that will label all of the known desire paths on campus with markers based on Appalachian Trail signage.

I was accepted to be an exhibiting artist at Artfields 2022 in Lake City, SC.

I keep a running list in Google Docs of possible public projects and/or absurd artworks that I don't have the resources to execute currently, but would like to some day. It's kind of like a digital extension of my sketchbook. I have build a project around this that I assign to my students, in which they have to design a hypothetical sculpture and create renderings or a scale maquette and pitch it to the class as if we're investors or project stakeholders. I use this as my research project for Introductory Sculpture classes, and I really love seeing what they come up with. It's my favorite project that I teach.

In my free time, I like to forage for mushrooms, climb rocks, and bake. I am also a big fan of hockey and cats. I spend a lot of time thinking about chairs while sitting in chairs.

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