Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Cutter of Lilacs

Bruce Erikson
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Artist’s statement

My narratives emanate from personal memories and dreams that are often overlooked. My work attempts to evolve past my personal life, and address psychological issues of aging, death and dying, loss and longing, and family relationships. In my paintings, I often portray hopeless and tragic scenes and blur the line between nostalgic projections of the future and actual recollections of the past. As I draw my fragmented thoughts, I recognize I have obsessed over and invented other people’s experiences and incorporated these experiences into my work out of revisionist needs. Like myths, my narratives do not need to be taken literally as they do not depict real experiences.

Cutter of Lilacs depicts three realities: lived, remembered, and projected. It portrays fragmented histories of my grandfather’s procession into old age: the slow walking, the guide-dog, the mechanized transport, visiting family, and fears of abandonment in a rundown institution. In the windows we see other wings of the hospital and we assume similar patients may be wandering out of sight and out of mind. The piece provokes a domino effect that begins with the breakdown of the individual and moves outwardly to the breakdown of the institution, and eventually the breakdown of the narrative. The side panels show two physical realities: the walker and the rundown hospital as it stands today. Like a corpse, the hospital is but a shell of its former existence. In the right wing we see branches and earth spilling back into the space reclaiming the architecture in the tradition of the European romantic landscape painters from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The setting speaks to the failure of the technological and institutional promises that might emancipate us from pain or loss.

Cutter of Lilacs painting.
Cutter of Lilacs
48″ x 36″
Oil on panel triptych

BRUCE ERIKSON graduated in 1996 with a BFA degree in drawing from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Later he pursued an MFA in painting at Indiana University- Bloomington and received a fellowship to study in Florence, Italy. Since then, he has taught at numerous universities including Kendall College of Art and Design, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently Assistant Professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio where he teaches drawing and painting while writing and recording music on the side. In 2007, one of his paintings was acquired by the State Museum of Pennsylvania for their permanent collection. Additionally, he has had numerous solo and juried exhibitions at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (MI), Brad Cooper Gallery (FL), Fraser Gallery (D.C.), and the Afif Gallery (PA). You can see more of his work at www.bruceerikson.com.

Highlighted in Frontispiece Volume 2, Issue 1 – Winter 2010

Winter 2010



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