By Caitlyn Shea
Eric Araujo is a meticulous craftsman that bridges the gap between utilitarian objects and conceptual art. His drawings of the human body read like anatomy textbooks overlaid with practical mechanical renderings. He seamlessly brings his attention to detail into 3-D works as well. In his ongoing series House Project, Araujo salvages discarded materials in order to build impermanent housing structures for homeless people. Beyond a major act of kindness, these houses mimic the pre-existing houses in the neighborhoods they are placed in and make a powerful statement about the unspoken rift amongst the area’s “haves” and “have-nots.”
In the eyes of homeless people and neighborhood residents, Araujo’s houses must seem to appear and then disappear out of thin air. The artist does not usually have any interaction with the fortunate receivers of the homes or nearby homeowners as he drops his handmade structures off in the darkness of night. He does recall his first drop off in San Francisco and the suspicious feedback he received from a man named Wallace that had been living on the street. “He thought I would harm him, like set it on fire! It was shocking as I never considered that as a possible reaction. Ultimately it resulted in his exuberant gratitude remarking;
‘This is the first time I’ve owned a house in all my life. THANK YOU!'”
At first glance, Araujo’s human body renderings and houses may seem unrelated; however they speak to the inner-workings of pinnacle human structures. He explains, “Whether it’s a house or the human body they’re both utilitarian and both impermanent. They both require maintenance for longevity and a sound skeletal structure to exist well.” He also notes that our possessions define us the same way that our bodies do. Our objects act “as prosthetics and extensions of our bodies and one could consider our human relationships as reflections of ourselves.”
It comes as no surprise that Araujo works tirelessly in his studios on multiple projects at the same time…
“These days my studio practice is divided between my apartment where I draw and a separate wood shop where I can use power tools and make a mess to build things. It becomes a practice of time management and patience . . . Making things is like exercising a muscle, just a little bit helps keep muscle memory. Before I know it I’ve got a body of work.”
During SPARKBOOM‘s kickoff event, viewers will have the opportunity to see and engage with a house boat called “Debbie Sue” first hand. It speaks to the human need for refuge, especially in the wake of natural disasters such as Sandy and Katrina. Join us at Walt Whitman’s Birthplace for Beards, Bards, and BOOM on June 21st from 7-11PM to explore “Debbie Sue” before it sets sail! RSVP here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caitlyn Shea is a professional fine art painter. She studied Studio Art and Art History at Pratt Institute and Skidmore College before graduating with a BFA from Adelphi University in 2011. Outside of her studio, Shea is captivated by the pluralism that exists in art today, and the ways in which individual artists define themselves and their practices in order to carve out a unique career. By interviewing participating SPARKBOOMTM artists, Shea looks to develop a dialogue between practicing artists and an audience that does not only include other art experts, but people who have a newfound urge to become involved in experiencing the work of fresh, exciting artists.