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Erica Prince

From her cadence, to the gentle sway of her body as she moves, from her bright and inviting smile, to the feminine aura of her presence, Prince in so many ways encapsulates in her very essence the qualities and concepts of the art she’s creating. Seeking to investigate evolving conceptions of femininity and its associations, this artist creates pieces that challenge archetypal notions of the ‘female’ through an embracement of these very archetypes in both form and function. It is the boldness of this reclamation that gives her work such a rhetorical punch. Initially, it was the aesthetic beauty of Prince’s work that lured us over at office in, but when we got some context, man oh man were we itching to catch up with the artist and see what’s good.


Tell me a little about yourself, where you grew up, all that basic information.


I grew up sort of all over. I’m originally from Toronto, but then I also grew up in Virginia and New Jersey, so I kind of don’t have a sense of where I’m from. I lived in Philadelphia for a long time prior to moving to New York, and I’m a multi-media, multi-disciplinary artist I should say, which means that I work in a lot of different mediums, anything from ceramics to drawing to sculptural installation. I have an installation project where I give people transformational makeovers and it’s called the Transformational Makeover Salon, and I’ve also directed a few music videos. I have a very multifaceted approach, but it’s all coming from the same place, which is this idea of trying to design really thoughtful things that are frameworks to explore variations. A lot of things, like the makeover and the ceramics, have that parallel where they’re both open frameworks for people to participate in trying out different variables, which I think is really instrumental to my work.


What memory instantly makes you smile?


Playing dress-up as a little girl. I was really into dress-up. I was sort of an only child, I had to older half-sisters, but I was very self-entertaining, which I think is a huge part of why I’m an artist now. I had a really intense dress-up collection because both my mom and my nana are beauty queens, and I smile thinking of trying on all of those fabulous dresses. I wish I still had them because I would probably still wear them.


What is the last book or movie or anything that you came across that really resonates with you, something that you’ve incorporated in your artistic approach?


I recently watched the Barbie documentary on Hulu and it was huge for me. I grew up loving Barbie and she is a clearly controversial figure, but that’s also what’s interesting about her. I didn’t know Barbie was the very first doll to ever have boobs, or that she was the very first adult woman doll. Prior to Barbie it was only baby dolls, and the only option was for girls to learn how to be mothers through baby dolls.I thought it was really interesting that Barbie became this very controversial but very necessary tool for girls to imagine different versions of themselves. They would try on these different careers and different ways of being through Barbie. Obviously it’s a little problematic because Barbie is only one person, and she sort of taught little girls how to be capitalists as well, but I think she’s still so interesting because she became this device for young girls to project themselves onto. It’s this very idea that I like to explore in my work, not only in the makeovers, but also the ceramics. Barbie is a very important piece of history in so many ways that we don’t think about.


For every artist, the process of creating can often be a process of self-discovery. You have this idea in your head when you begin, and that idea often changes and morphs as you are crafting your piece. Ceramic is such an interesting medium because it’s so malleable and open to transformation, so I was wondering if there is anything you’ve learned about yourself from the process of working within medium?


I mean there is so many things I’ve learned. I’m relatively new to working with ceramics in the grand scheme of things. I’ve gone through many phases with different materials in my life, my background is actually in printmaking, costuming and drawing., but I’ve always had a an interest in ceramics because it’s so raw. I was always doing other things, and then I came back to this medium later on and I think part of my love for it is the fact that I have a really tactile and primal connection to it. Our relationship is not based on formal artistic education, or on knowing about clay bodies and glaze chemistry. The experience of creating something with your hands is so direct and personal. Through creating with clay I discovered that I really love this idea of getting into a nonverbal head-space and just making something tactile. There is something so honest about ceramics as a medium, it’s so human. There are ways to make it perfect, but if that’s your goal, then I think there are other better ways to make “perfect” things than through ceramics. Some people get off on making perfect ceramics, but I think that’s almost a machismo thing in a way haha. If your going to use this medium you have to embrace the fact that it’s going to create a really nuanced result that has a profoundly human touch. I think that that’s what makes handmade ceramic pieces really special, and what kind of slows us down when we’re looking at them because they have more personality than the average object.


If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be and why?


Oo that’s hard because I’m thinking of shoes I like, not shoes I would actually be! I would probably be a flamboyant yet practical shoe, because I can’t be a flamboyant and super sexy shoe, and I can’t be just a practical shoe. Somewhere in that middle ground where there is a real usability and a celebration of being somewhat over-the-top. A flamboyant but practical jelly. I’m sure I’m going to have a million more answers for that question right after you leave!


What do you think the relationship is between intention and reception?


I think that good artists are in control of both, and take responsibility for both. Let me rephrase that actually; I think that good artists have an awareness of both, because when your conscious of what your making, and your not just stumbling into one accident after another, you have intentionality and you have a certain outcome that you want the work to have. My work is always from a point of beginning with an idea, and the form comes afterwards. Especially when pieces are a little bit more conceptually-based, you have to have an intention in mind and then the form follows the functions. And then all that you can hope is that the reception of that is clear. I’m not really interested in artists that irresponsibly fling things into the world and don’t take ownership of or aren’t interested in the reception. That seems a little self-centered in a way to me. Although there are some outsider artists that I love that who don’t do that, but they’re not necessarily making art for the world. So I guess my sentiments apply specifically to artists who are making art for the world stage. That is the ultimate challenge, honestly, making intentional work that is received in the way that you intended it to be. It’s not just about making something and then making another thing, that’s just lazy to not take responsibility for the grander idea that you are representing.


Which fictional character would you grab a drink with?


There so many! Probably not Barbie ha, that might get a little out of hand! Let me think for a second...maybe Carrie Bradshaw, because she’s got some good dirt, and she’s also probably a great person to spill your dirt onto and get some good feedback. She just feels like the right person to grab a drink with.


Now for some word associations.


Warm Boofy (my cat)


Texting no thank you


Home studio


Universal meaning


Spicy tuna


Limits emotional


Hair wigs


Power politics


Love necessary


Window composition


Smile warm


Mother comfort


Vanilla boring


Ally friends


Close friends


Censored Trump


Heavenly bath tub


Childish play


Forever wrestling (my wrestling persona)

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