Artist Spotlight: Alumnus Ed Erdmann

Bryce Parr –

Hailing from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, Ed Erdmann graduated from University of Wisconsin–Stout’s studio art program in December of 2018 with a concentration in painting. Erdmann uses a variety of natural mediums and plans to open a gallery in Menomonie.

What sparked your interest in art?

I had juvenile arthritis and the doctors gave me clay to play with to work my hands. So my hands weren’t always super stiff.  That eventually went into remission but it’s just kind of this habit I’ve always had so I was always building monsters, dinosaurs, armor for my G.I. Joes and things like that. That’s the first creative thing I can think of myself doing. There’s always something. I always had to find ways to entertain myself, so I was usually drawing or creating something.

What styles or mediums do you prefer?

Recently I’ve been using almost any natural material that I can. A lot of research goes into deciding what to use because there is so much. You go on a hike and you can use anything you put your eyes on. Then you have to consider how you’re going to manipulate those things.

I’ve used anything from the branches of trees to rivers and streams and rainwater runoff from the gutter of my house—just anything that has a motion or an energy. A lot of times it’s layers and collecting—putting canvas in a stream or river. I would attach charcoal on the end of tree branches and put a panel up so the wind would scrape against it.

Do you take influence from any artists or designers in particular?

Always. It’s like when you’re a musician. You’re constantly listening to music. It’s good to know what’s out there. Know who the people that came before you are.

In the seventies there was a big land art movement. Richard Long. Andy Goldsworthy is a guy who does a really similar thing. He goes out and attaches ice to trees during the winter. There’s something about creating something that will go away in the spring. It’s ephemeral.

Are there any projects that stood out during your career at Stout?

The body of work that was my senior thesis show I see potentially as work that I could work on my whole life. It is kind of talking about life and mortality—it feels fitting that I work on it through my whole life. Seasons themselves are going to be shifting and turning over so there’s new things I’m always seeing. It just keeps molding and forming.

What have you done on your professional path?

I got to work with a conservator for a couple of jobs while they were working in Harvey Hall. It was really nice to be involved with that world. I did work in the gallery for about three or four years while I was on campus and I really fell in love with that. The in-between world of setting up a show and watching a show come together—you saw it when it was two-by-fours and drywall and now you get to see it a finished project—there’s something really satisfying about that. That’s similar to conservator work. The piece is looking real scrappy and you get to restore it and handle it—care for it in this really delicate and sensitive way that I don’t think a lot of objects that we make are cared for.

Parallel to that, I’m really looking forward to opening a gallery here in Menomonie. Not only as a place for community members that aren’t involved with the school but also students with the school. I’ve lived here long enough that I think there is a real divide of students and locals. There is an intersection. Places like the raw deal are good for that, but I think there could always be more.