Erika Cleveland
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Artist Statement & Biography
As a child, my German mother read me and my sisters the original Grimms fairy tales, un-Disnified, in all their wildness and glory. My dolls draw on that childhood experience of magic as well as fairy tales and myths from India, Scandinavia and Russia.
Their faces are important to me. In discovering the technique of needle felting in the past three years, I have found the perfect medium to express their unique expressions. Sometimes I look at the faces of my family or research faces online and sometimes I draw on my imagination.
Their bodies and clothes often have hidden pockets or spaces where other dolls or secrets are hidden. I believe in magic and dreams and in the capacity of dolls to heal, both myself and hopefully the viewer as well. Viewers of my work have told me that they can relate to and are moved by the universal themes in my dolls.
Erika came to doll making recently and taught herself to felt and sculpt her dolls. Her previous training in the fine arts and also as an art therapist inform her current work. Recently she has received grants for bringing her work to the community at large. In 2015 she received a CRAVE grant for her project "Materialized Magic: Mythical Creatures in a Yarn Artistry Habitat." This project culminated in an exhibit at the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia and at the Torpedo Factory also in Virginia. In 2016 she received a Margaret M. Conant Grant for her study of Flip or Topsy Turvy dolls. This project culminates in an exhibit at the Artists and Makers Studios in Maryland. She exhibits at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA and has shown in museums and galleries across the U.S.
Artist StatementAs a child, my German mother read me and my sisters the original Grimms fairy tales, un-Disnified, in all their wildness and glory. My dolls draw on that childhood experience of magic as well as fairy tales and myths from India, Scandinavia and Russia.
Their faces are important to me. In discovering the technique of needle felting in the past three years, I have found the perfect medium to express their unique expressions. Sometimes I look at the faces of my family or research faces online and sometimes I draw on my imagination.
Their bodies and clothes often have hidden pockets or spaces where other dolls or secrets are hidden. I believe in magic and dreams and in the capacity of dolls to heal, both myself and hopefully the viewer as well. Viewers of my work have told me that they can relate to and are moved by the universal themes in my dolls.
Artist BiographyErika came to doll making recently and taught herself to felt and sculpt her dolls. Her previous training in the fine arts and also as an art therapist inform her current work. Recently she has received grants for bringing her work to the community at large. In 2015 she received a CRAVE grant for her project "Materialized Magic: Mythical Creatures in a Yarn Artistry Habitat." This project culminated in an exhibit at the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia and at the Torpedo Factory also in Virginia. In 2016 she received a Margaret M. Conant Grant for her study of Flip or Topsy Turvy dolls. This project culminates in an exhibit at the Artists and Makers Studios in Maryland. She exhibits at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA and has shown in museums and galleries across the U.S.
Education
New York University|Graduated
School of the Museum of Fine Arts|Graduated
What I Love Doing
I love to hang out with my teenage kids, my husband and our Old English Bulldog, taking walks around the D.C. area. I read vociferously and love to swim, bike and look at the stars (don't get to do that enough in a city.) I play viola in a quartet for fun (also not enough) and love listening to music as well.
What I Find Beautiful
people's faces
trees
lakes, rivers, streams
small moments of connection between people
My Favorite Memory
I remember dancing on the wooden platform in the middle of a grassy field, how my frilly pink and salmon colored dress poufed out in a perfect circle, at the first wedding I ever attended at age about 5. And I remember the taste of melon balls that came in perfect rounds. I ate them with my sisters under the piano, as jazz wafted into the nearby woods. And the juice of the melons dripped down our arms and onto our faces.
My Favorite Art Style
I love the rawness of "outsider art." There is something about directness and openness of it that appeals to me.
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