May 17, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Santa Fe artist canonizes everyday saints through paint and trash-based collage

3 min read
Santa Fe artist Erin Currier poses with two of her paintings, “Flamenco! II,” left, and “Leo Baker” in her studio. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Erin Currier’s portraits capture passion despite the fate of human suffering.

The self-described nomad wields her paintbrush to portray those driven by a deeper aesthetic than the quest for fame and fortune. It’s a driver she calls “duende,” the Andalusian take on the Spanish term for mysterious and ineffable charisma. Her latest work “Passion, Pathos and the Human Potential” can be seen at Santa Fe’s Blue Rain Gallery.

The Santa Fe artist canonizes everyday saints through paint and trash-based collage.

Currier’s focus on garbage started when she was working as a barista in Taos while studying at the old College of Santa Fe.

“I was just blown away by how much was thrown away,” she said. “I started collaging that – tea boxes, tea wrappers, coffee cups.”

The artist created a series of Buddhist deities using the coffee shop trash.

A Taos gallery picked up her work.

A descendant of the lithographer Nathaniel Currier of Currier & Ives fame, today she travels the globe collecting both cultures and garbage everywhere she goes.

She spent the proceeds from her first show circling the globe. She trained with kung fu masters in Beijing, tangoed in Buenos Aires and ate dinner on dirt floors with Tibetan exiles in Nepal.

She spins her heroes from unusual sources.

Santa Fe artist Erin Currier has a tattoo of Nicaraguan revolutionary leader Augusto Sandino on her arm. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The portrait “Israel (The Last Stylebender) Adesanya” sprang from her interest in the young Nigerian-born New Zealand professional mixed martial artist.

“He was frequently bullied as a child,” Currier said, describing Adesanya’s impetus for becoming a fighter. “I used a number of images and I watch Ultimate Fighting Championship fights. He donated medical equipment to hospitals in Nigeria and New Zealand during the pandemic.”

Currier begins with sketches and paint before she builds the collage.

“He’s a really flamboyant dresser, a real fashionista,” she added.

She created the orange ruff encircling his neck from strips of paper. The composition also features sardine boxes, sugar packets, playing cards and pub coasters from across the globe.

For the 7-foot-tall “Las Mariachis” she painted a composite portrait of Mexican female musicians, arched in Mexican bingo cards and matchbox covers. Cigar labels from a Mexican smokeshop climb their legs.

“I just wanted to do a large portrait in tribute to feminine grace and solidarity and also Mexican culture and music in general,” Currier said, “something uplifting during this whole pandemic.”

“Vanessa Turnbull (After Titian)” is a portrait of an Australian Indigenous activist. The “Revolution” fist on her chest came from a May Day protest handbill Currier found in Berlin. Turnbull’s figure carries the Aboriginal flag.

“She is part of the Stolen Generation of forced assimilation,” Currier said.

She decided to paint a portrait of Joe Rogan after listening to the comedian, actor and former TV presenter’s podcast. She enveloped his face with a parental advisory label, the Statue of Liberty, a Life cereal label and a “Miss & Mr. Fitness” handbill she discovered in Prague.

“I love that he has a whole range of speakers like Cornel West, Russell Brand and Bernie Sanders,” Currier said. “He’s had so many scientists and visionaries and people from the whole political spectrum. I love his open mind and his open heart.”

Her style reflects both the sacred portraits of New Mexican santeros as well as Eastern iconography.

She’s working on her second commission for Albuquerque’s Flamenco Festival. Currier also created the image used in the 2021 festival’s posters, banners and T-shirts.

She brings out the saint in everyone.

Currier’s work hangs in the permanent collections of the Harwood Museum in Taos, the state of New Mexico public collection and the University of Arizona Museum of Art, as well as in the private collections of Bernardo Bertolucci, Lisa Bonet, John Cusack, Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Gibson, Coretta Scott King, Julia Roberts, Carlos Santana and Martin Sheen.

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