Erik Otto: The Rising Sun

Rising Sun, Erik Otto’s current show at Luna Rienne Gallery until July 27th, contemplates in mixed media the changes that are making San Francisco an increasingly challenging environment for artists. Erik has been making art professionally in the city for over a decade—with gallery appearances in the Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Washington DC and Vancouver.

O+A first met Erik through our designers Jeorge Jordan and Renee Laput-Mendoza, both of whom were friends and both of whom worked on the pop-up shop Bureau where Erik showed a canvas. Later, design firm and artist teamed up again with the installation at LiveFyre of Erik’s epic wall sculpture “Ring of Fire”—an assembly of wood, neon and mirrors. Recently we checked in with Erik:

What fuels you to do the work you do?
Everything, everything, everything for me…comes from within. Through trusting and following my intuition, I see so much more. It is this endless source of inspiration and fountain of life that pushes me to continue creating. It’s as if every time I carry out a vision (no matter how big or small), I uncover another layer to my soul. It’s both frightening and exciting at the same time and this endless symbiotic relationship serves as the driving force behind my work. That, and it doesn’t take much to excite me. Meaning, I often encounter very normal otherwise banal moments in my life and somehow a deep epiphany can become of it urging me to go back to the studio to turn it into something.

What’s the hardest part about being an artist?  What obstacles have you encountered and how have you dealt with them?
The struggle is real, but it can be a beautiful one with the proper management of how your time is spend. Often times, the back end work of running a business can be daunting, but I make sure to break it all down into smaller chunks and every day chip away at it. In conjunction with that, it’s tough to turn any entrepreneurial effort into one that can bring in a stable income to keep everything moving forward. I make an effort to establish multiple streams of income, keep the expenses to a minimum and do my best to secure enough projects to cover the bills and then some. Lastly, doing all that while still finding the time to produce the work. I never lack inspiration, but being able to switch gears from business to creative takes an art in itself.

What do you want your art to do/inspire?
Through openly communicating my highest of highs and lowest of lows, my goal is to make a genuine and emotional connection with the viewer to invoke a sense of wonder about the world around them and their own experience within it.

Is there an element of art that you enjoy working with the most?
Painting is by far the most enjoyable for me. There’s no hiding. It’s pretty much you and this surface where anything can happen. It’s pure, honest, and in a way, provides the most therapeutical result — for both me and the viewer.

Do you see an evolution in your work from one show to the next?
Yes, always. Having a show, especially a solo one, can often result in a visual display of where my life is currently at. Since we as people, as well as the world around us, are always changing, my specific interests and desires also change. Some of the best learning experiences come from producing a show, but the process can also be quite taxing on the , mind, body and soul. After any big project, I can’t wait to pull away and move on to the next. Typically, by reflecting on a recent show, while considering all the new ideas that revealed themselves when I was buried in the work, the next path reveals itself and the whole thing starts all over again — only now with better perspective. Overall, I try to keep it interesting for me as well as the viewer and brave new terrain in some manner with every big push.

You spent some time in Mexico.  Can you tell me about it and any projects/inspirations that we can expect to see from you in the next year?
Yes, with an intent to explore somewhere completely unknown at the time to me, I took a trip to Mexico City. While getting lost in the busy streets of this enormous city, I randomly bumped into an old friend that I had lost touch with. Turns out he recently moved there from Guadalajara and through his grace of connecting people, I quickly became a familiar face and it became an obvious choice to return as much as possible to continue to grow all the possibilities. Within a year I temporarily relocated there and built out a studio in an abandoned building that later become home to a pop-up art exhibition displaying all the works I created during my time there. The building is now long gone and all my tools are stashed at a friends house awaiting my return to do it all again, but with more permanence.

Other than that, I want to visit other big cities to continue building my network while continuing to produce work expanding off my latest show, Rising Sun.

“… one by one every building around me is turning into condos, but fortunately, my landlord has no desire to sell and we continue to make as much noise as we want.”

Erik Otto, 
The Creator Class

Image Sources:  Warby Parker Blog, Luna Rienne Gallery, and Erik Otto