I encountered Erin Washington’s work while wandering through an open house of the Art Institute graduate studios. I stopped dead in my tracks the moment I peaked my head into her studio – her work is incredible! There were probably five paintings hanging on the walls, in addition to the model of a black hole in the corner of the room. I was enthralled with her piece “Agathist” (fourth from the top), and offered to pay cash for it. She called my bluff, somehow knowing that I was broke.
“Agathist” is aproximately four feet squared, and is painted entirely with the pigment of blackberries. Ms. Washington picks the blackberries throughout the summer as they ripen, this accounts for the variation in color and tone. The brilliant thing about the work, is that it changes hue over time as the blackberries oxidize (rot). There were a few glass jars full of blackberries in her studio, and she explained that she chews one or two at a time for varying durations in order to get the consistency right, then she uses her hands or occasionally a brush to apply the pigment to the canvas.
Agathism, from the Greek, agatho- (good), is the doctrine that the ultimate end of all things is good, although the intermediate means may be evil. In the conflict between optimism and pessimism, agathism is the reasonable intermediate. The agathist sees the world as essentially good but a place in which bad things can and do happen to good people.
Erin Washington is among my all time favorite artists. Check out her website.