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Image: Dena Barnes

When asked to identify his biggest influences today, Chris Erickson doesn’t hesitate: the twenty fellow artists he shares studio space with at S.A.W., a thriving artist cooperative in Carbondale. Before joining S.A.W. (Studio for Arts and Works) in 2012, Erickson made large-scale props for parties and functions. As an artist, he was focused on large abstract landscapes. Now, while still running his décor business, Erickson is blurring the lines between fine art and applied art, working in every conceivable medium and collaborating on large assemblages with several other S.A.W. artists.

“I consider myself a sculptor and an installation artist,” he says, though he admits to dabbling in everything in between. An eight-foot-tall set of neon headphones dominates Erickson’s space in the co-op. In June, he installed a similar sculpture (pictured above) in downtown Carbondale that will be on display for a year as part of the Carbondale Public Arts Commission’s “Art Around Town” initiative. The headphones broadcast local radio station KDNK and are part of Erickson’s “making a statement about isolation devices.”

By enlarging the headphones and placing them in a public space, he strips the stigma of isolation from this iconic object. “When you make something larger than life,” he says, “it’s easier to point out the blatantly obvious.” He is also poking fun at his own tendency to disappear into music and headphones when he wants to retreat or when making art. Erickson believes in not taking himself, or art, too seriously.

Erickson’s current projects include reclaiming speakers from thrift stores and repurposing them as MP3 players, as well as addressing political topics such as the dominance of large pharmaceutical companies and the accessibility of guns. One dark, large-scale piece is a composite of guns in the shape of a map of the United States on a black canvas. When a passing viewer asks Erickson if there was any reason he chose a particular type of gun to cover a particular state, he smiled and answered, “No, the important thing is that the guns are all pointing towards each other.”

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