Ezra Edgerton ’16 joins a long history of artists exploring the body in his Smith Gallery show, “Tastefully Nude.” Unlike many of those artists, Edgerton interprets the word “tasteful” a bit more literally.
“I came up with the title, ‘Tastefully Nude,’ because I think the flagship of the gallery is the red one in the middle with babies,” Edgerton said. “In that one specifically, it’s a lot of babies in one panel —they are eating each other, in another panel they are killing each other, and in the third panel they are fucking each other, which was so much fun to make.
“My thought behind it was all three of these actions give you this feeling of satisfaction once it’s over. You know after eating a lot of food, you just … sit back, and it’s the same thing with fighting. Like Fight Club, it has this strange primal satisfaction.”
For Edgerton, art is a way of examining the world through a different lens, which is reflected in the odd and interesting scenes and bodies that make up his works.
“A lot of what happens with my art is that I come up with this idea and then I draw it and then I think this is a lot stranger than I thought it would be,” Edgerton said. “I think choosing a title for anything is just really hard, sometimes when you choose a title you just sound like a cock. As far as the meaning behind it, I don’t put a lot of thought into it.”
Even if he doesn’t put much thought into his titles, Edgerton is able to find thematic meaning in his work.
“I guess the theme I have noticed is just these crowds of people. That has sort of been coming out of this growing fear I have where there will never be a time where we’re not surrounded by people,” Edgerton said. “There are protected forest areas, but what we’re not realizing that the unprotected forest areas, it’s all going to become these simple squares where everyone is going to go there for nature and it’s this sense that it’s going to be crowded there all the time.”
Though these are deep topics, he tries his best to not take things too seriously and draws inspiration for his art from his day-to-day life, including his experiences living around Chicago and driving through the city, and his thoughts on the surrounding buildings.
“The big wall city thing, I just imagined while driving around the city of Chicago,a lot of impressions of these big mystery buildings, like what the fuck is going on in there? So, my impression was this city of … ominousness, strange stuff going on,” Edgerton said. “I grew up in Chicago but I think there are so much incredible huge things. An hour of just driving from here to there where you see these massive multi-block windowless buildings and [with] so much hidden stuff just like driving past cow corral. There is just so much of it that you never really see much about it.”
Though some pieces in the gallery are quite large, Edgerton finds that his favorites are the smaller screen prints.
“There’s this one where it’s just a crowd of people smiling, and there is also the picture of two fat guys touching bellies. That [latter] one was inspired by Plato’s mythological man—the idea that at one point we were all merged with our soul mates, two-headed and four arms,” Edgerton said. “I just really liked the idea that it was a sphere and so you needed two fat guys. One thing I do want to try later on is have two happy fat people start running towards each other and then for a split second create a perfect sphere [as they collide].”