Bruce Eichelberger – The Anatomy Lesson – studio visit March 2016
Tell us about the show’s concept and influences.
BE: It’s about death, sex, science, religion – a lot of science and religion. Matt Kennedy (La Luz de Jesus gallery director) named the show. My art is inspired by my views on religion. I’m an atheist myself (says Bruce’s wife Bebe “I’m Catholic, we’re one with and one without religion… We tell each other our views and thoughts… I love it !!) and it’s bumming me out seeing how much religion is affecting our politics. That influences a lot of my stuff, how religion and government has affected all of us and we go along with it, we’re happy with everything. I’m trying not to be duped. I’ve always had this passion about science being in a battle with religion for thousands of years. Science was starting to prevail a little bit now I’m watching it being shoved back. That’s really where I’m at is that war with science and religion.
Tell us about this (assemblage) piece:
BE: That’s called “In the Beginning”, it’s a little play on Adam and Eve – that was more for my entertainment – I was inspired by Tilman Riemenschneider’s inlay work.
What inspired you to use a human hand?
BE: This may sound boring but, It fits there.
What sort of items are you using in this show? Give an example of what you use, and your process.
BE: The inlays contain some golden hearts, purple hearts, some mahogany, silver, bones. I’ll start with the figure, and I”ll draw it out on a piece of throwaway wood – a piece of wood I don’t care about. I’ll draw it out then I’ll section it with a pencil – draw where I want the cuts, will make the cuts then I”ll line up the cuts on the throwaway wood I’ll line it up on good hardwood, and slowly put the picture together.
And the Camel skull?
BE: I will do an outline in pencil, then ink the skull with the tiny brushes. Once I have my outline I just flow. A week later it may change. I can’t keep focusing on one theme, by the time I to the lower part of the piece, something else is happening (note – in Bruce’s personal life or in the news) and that gets incorporated into the piece. Once the piece is finished I’ll sprays it with a sealant – that stuff is amazing. This (points to another piece) was painted years ago and there’s no damage
Tell us more about “72 Reasons”, the Camel skull piece.
BE: This started out 72 Reasons out of Raisins. I was listening to an Arabic scholar -not a biblical scholar but a scholar on the Arabic Language, he was giving this lecture and was talking about the 72 virgins thing – the promise of 72 virgins after a suicide bomber blows himself up. This guy said, it can be read several ways – it can be twisted and most likely translate to “you can receive 72 grapes”… somebody got virgins out of it…. They are probably going to get grapes.
How do you know when you are finished with a piece
BE: Once it’s covered and I’m happy with everything, once I get to my last bit of outline it’s over – I know not to go any further – I used to be able to spend a lot of time obsessing but not anymore. Once I have my outline I just flow. (Note: Bruce works on a sort of improvisational level – his themes may change while working on a piece.)
Tell us about these femurs -How do you keep your figures consistent around the curves?
BE: The Femurs are inspired by one of one of my favorite authors, George Orwell – that one is based on “1984” . Once I saw the femurs i thought I could fit a lot of stuff on there. Once I hit the apex on the curve, I have to do a lot of corrections with a razor blade
What did you use to create “Decay”?
BE: Abalone – Preciosa, silver, ironwood, mahogany, rosewood, petrified mammoth
Does “Decay” have a particular theme or inspiration?
She (note: his wife Bebe) was trying to get me to quit smoking.
Bruce Eichelberger’s The Anatomy Lesson opens at La Luz de Jesus Gallery on April 1 8-11 PM with Krystopher Sapp’s The Great American Horror Show and remains up through May 1. Preview both shows at this link.