Born and raised in Metro Detroit, Erica Podwoiski received her BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2010 and her MFA from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2017. She has exhibited at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (GOCA) in Colorado Springs, with the pop-up art truck Hey Hue, and in the Got It For Cheap (GIFC) international traveling art show. Erica has taught figure drawing and painting at CU Boulder and in a variety of nontraditional settings. She currently lives and works in Boulder, Colorado. Her turn-ons include big hands, a well-trained bonsai, Polish Cold War-era movie posters, hearts of palm, androgyny, pierogi, midcentury tchotchkes, grottoes, glam rock, moss, and the iliac crest. Her main turn-offs are truffle oil and mansplaining.
As a creator, I’m committed to promoting a culture of sexual empowerment and radical empathy. I crave stories and viewpoints that complicate our ideas around power while expanding our conceptions of the erotic. Desire is the force that drives my work, which includes paintings, drawings, collage and cyanotypes on paper. I’m drawn to water media for its sensual and unpredictable qualities, as ink often obscures my images in ways that are beyond my control.
Rather than ignoring or concealing parts of the body that may cause unease, I flirt with the abject and seek out the taboo. I prefer to create my own source material, frequently drawing from personal photographs and video stills of intimate encounters with myself and others. By asserting ownership of my body within my images, I aim to open up conversations around the representation of women and sexuality in contemporary American culture. The figures in my art leer back at the viewer, seek pleasure without shame, and rage against the demure.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
In Western art, the history of representation has long been dominated by male artists painting female bodies. Too often, these images demonstrated a very narrow viewpoint, tinged with a desire to control. A big part of what motivates me to engage with eroticism in my own work is a personal disconnect with our dominant visual culture. In America, images of violence proliferate in mass media while depictions of female pleasure continue to be censored. This implicit bias has resulted in an unfortunate narrowing of our collective imagination. Mainstream heteronormative pornography is generally focused on male pleasure and what looks good to the camera, rather than what feels good for all partners involved.
When I’m working with erotic themes, honesty and sexual agency are of utmost importance. By taking ownership of the female nude within the male-dominated history of painting, I seek to create alternative representations of the body that resist containment. I prefer full control over my source material, so I often draw from personal photographs and video stills of intimate encounters with my partner. I’m not so concerned with presenting a binary “male” or “female” gaze as I am with presenting a gaze that is authentically my own.
I find the first-person point of view to be especially effective in disrupting the traditional male gaze. The drawings in my series “Vanishing Points” are all recollections of lived experience, drawn from my own perspective.
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