Erika Simmons is an artist who can look at discarded items and see a masterpiece hidden within the pieces. Her fascination with perspective and her ability to create something out of nothing makes her one of the most resourceful artists I’ve come across. Her “Ghost In The Machine” series has to be her most unique and cleverly created pieces of art. Using nothing but cassette tape, video tape pieces and a knife, Erika is able to create an exact and elaborate image. So the next time you think about throwing something away, take a second look because you never know what art lies within it.
Q. What is composite art?
A. Composite art is when you take small objects or items and arrange them, using them as parts of a greater overall image.
Q. What was the first piece of composite art that you ever created?
A. The first piece was a portrait of Shakespeare made out of bits of pages of his sonnets. It’s still one of my favorites, the author revealed through his own words.
Q. When you go to garage sales and thrift stores, what items do you look for to create your pieces?
A. I look for things that I can easily take apart, and that once broken or torn, things that still have some character that you would recognize in the pieces. Playing cards, newspaper, clock parts, baseballs, these kinds of things.
Q. Tell me about your “Ghost In The Machine” series. Where did you draw your inspiration from?
A. My true inspiration is an artist named Ken Knowlton. I had no interest in being an artist until I saw his work. After, I thought I had to try it! The "Ghost in the Machine" series explores the arrangement of data and how we interpret meaning out of it.
Q. Continuing with the last question, your ability to create portraits of people is so close to the actual image. How are you able to do this without adding paints or pigments?
A. Thanks; it takes a long time. Its slow work, but I like to work a little at a time so it doesn't feel so bad. I use xacto knives to get the details looking perfect, but the real beauty comes through when I can leave as much of the tape intact as possible... it’s a compromise.
Q. You recently had a show opening, what type of art are you displaying?
A. I've got all kinds on display, sheet music portraits, experimental collage pieces, several cassette tape and film pieces from the "Ghost in the Machine" series, and four Nintendo pieces.
Q. As an artist, what does it mean to you to be able to display your art for the public to see?
A. Most of the time I create art that I want to look at, ideas I want to explore, but for shows like this its fun to create art for an audience. I enjoy seeing people have fun with it.
Q. Writers get “writer’s block”, do artists get “artistic block”?
A. I get burnt out more than blocked... I can certainly get frustrated with any individual project, but I just move on to something else and come back with a fresh head, that usually helps.
Q. What message are you hoping to convey through your art?
A. I like the idea that inside of an object there is another reality hidden away. I love finding something new and unexpected in something I thought I knew well. That's what I try to share.
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