Melding art into your daily life – how can it work? For these two cyanotype artists Erin Patton McFerrin and Lisa Alberts, the process is so important. While Lisa’s sunprints rely heavily on the flora that her daughters bring her, Erin relies mostly on being near water to create fluid abstractions. Despite these different starting points, they both agree that the letting go of control during the process is what makes the work stronger and more interesting. For Erin, the water is the unknown force that creates her compositions. For Lisa, she never knows what her children will find, and how they will arrange their findings on the fabric that she provides.
We begin our discussion talking about Erin & Lisa’s early influences and how they came to make cyanotype their main art medium. Erin and Lisa both have backgrounds in dance (ballet, specifically), which, they admit, provided a strong foundation for discipline, but also was a fertile ground for perfectionism – the latter being something both have had to unlearn. Erin grew up in a very creative household. Both parents are musicians, and her mother is a retired art teacher. Lisa grew up always performing in some fashion, and remembers the hours that her mother would sit and watch her put on plays and dances.
As for their art practices, Erin started out with a sculpture and installation interest but quickly changed to non-toxic practices like cyanotypes and even some textile work when her children were born. Lisa, while she started as a ballet dancer, sustained a serious injury in her late teens and decided to give visual arts a try in college. She initially created bonnets and scarves out of her cyanotype sunprints, but transitioned them into more purposeful and meaningful sculptural objects as her burnout from wearable art was taking its toll. While both women discuss how their processes and art practices changed when they first became mothers, they find themselves in different phases now – Erin having teenagers and balancing the bittersweet notion of having more studio time but less time with her children as they age into adults, and Lisa having two young children who are more present with her, but fighting off resentment that she is not in the studio more.
Both women, while ultimately creating very different imagery from the cyanotype process, retain a similarity in the fluidity and beautiful abstraction in their works. Lisa’s “anxiety knots” are familiar yet tense – the knots beautifully printed by her daughters, but also tightly wound – like there is no way to unclench. Erin’s water prints splash and move about the paper – beautiful in their fleeting immediacy. So it is with motherhood – the immediacy seemingly endless, and the learning to let go seemingly impossible.
Erin Final Five:
Biggest Art Crush: Heather Day
Dream Trip: Hawaii
Film or book: Significant Others by Whitney Chadwick
Favorite meal: Fresh seafood
Shout-out: partner Jeremy
Biggest Art Crush: Caroline Denervaud
Dream Trip: Scandinavia
Film or book: Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear
Favorite meal: Oysters
Shout-out: partner Aaron, and other artist/mother Cassie Arnold
To see more of Lisa’s work please visit her website and follow her on IG @lisaalberts.art
The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn