A young artist leaves for school in New York.
Thursday, August 1, 2002
Photo by Randy Tunnell.
Photo: The Face of Time-Sarah Eichman with her scroll of one-hour self-portraits.
The inspiration for Sarah Eichman''s "24-Hour Drawing" came to her five years ago on a Greyhound bus, as she was making her way back to Monterey after several strange months in Mobile, Alabama.
"It was three days and three nights in the same seat, on the same bus," she says. "I had brought along three books, but had read them all by the second day. And then my mind started bending." At one point on the trip, she realized that she had been counting and was into the three thousands. Random thoughts started coming to her in rhymed patterns.
The result of this experience, executed in 2001 over a period of 24 hours, is an astonishing 30-foot-long scroll of sequential self-portraits, one charcoal drawing per hour. The drawing, which will be on display this weekend at the Lisa Coscino Gallery, in Pacific Grove, is a visual translation of Eichman''s desire to record perceptual shifts as they occur in time and space, in her mind and her body.
Later this month, Eichman will travel to New York to begin studying fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan''s East Village. It''s just the latest chapter in a young life already rich in artistic possibility.
Born in 1978 on Partington Ridge, in Big Sur, Eichman grew up mostly in Carmel Valley. After her graduation from Carmel High, several random developments led her to Alabama, where she was briefly one of 16 art history majors out of a student population of 20,000 at the University of South Alabama. A self-declared Japanophile, she soon found the anti-Asian racism in Mobile as unbearable as the city''s sweaty heat, and she moved back to California after two semesters. But having been pushed all her life to succeed in "gifted" classes at school, she decided to enter a period of "just living life," where she could observe herself and other people and separate what seemed to have been chosen for her from what she herself might want. Eventually, she took art classes at Monterey Peninsula College with Gary Quinones, who became, she says, "the mentor and counselor I always needed."
Among the reasons she asked Lisa Coscino if she could work at her gallery early last year was the fact that Eichman, a woman fascinated by time-shaped parallels, used to work in the building''s former establishment, a health food store called The Granary.
"It''s where the produce section used to be," she says of the gallery. "The desk where Lisa or I sit is where the bulk grains were." Eichman notes that customers she remembers from The Granary come into the gallery. "It''s the same place, the same interaction: talking about the merchandise, assisting people. They don''t recognize me."
Coscino is holding this special one-weekend-only show for Eichman as a farewell send-off. The exhibit is entitled "Sarah Eichman Needs Help."
"It''s my ''Before'' show," Eichman says. "My baby show. It''s a show about being a beginner." Despite the sophistication of her ideas and the resulting work, Eichman claims to have talent but no skills. "I''m using construction paper, butcher paper, plasticine," partly, she says, because she can''t afford better, partly because she hasn''t yet learned all she wants to know about art.
"I don''t know how to paint and I want to. I don''t know how to work a press and I want to."
In New York, she will have a class on drawing that meets from 9 am to 6 pm, another one on sculpture with the same hours. The intensity will fit the strong puritanical work ethic of Eichman, who admits to being a Daughter of the American Revolution.
However excited she is about the training she will receive, or the colleagues she will find, even more thrilling to Eichman is the fact that she will be living amidst the kaleidoscopic cultural world of New York. "Just being in the street is as good an education as any school," she says. "I''ve never been there before," she adds. "And it''s the first time in my life I''m leaving to go somewhere just for me. Everything will be brand new."
Eichman is very aware of moments when life seems to divide dramatically into Befores and Afters. While her recent "24-Hour Drawing" originated on a bus trip in 1997, there is also something ancient about this project, an elusive quest to understand and record the passage of time. "It''s partly self-indulgence," she says, "but partly these are ideas that are about a lot more than me." Like the writer Marcel Proust, who transformed constant self-scrutiny into a creative masterpiece of universal appeal, Eichman''s artistry goes far beyond the individual it seems most visibly to reflect. "Also," she adds, "for portraits, it''s hard to get anyone besides myself willing to pose for 24 hours."
"Sarah Eichman Needs Help" opens Friday at the Lisa Coscino Gallery, 171 Central, Pacific Grove, with a reception from 6-8pm. Special hours for this exhibit only: Saturday through Monday, 11am- 5:30pm. 646-1939.