captures the past with modern style
attracts national attention
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(December 2009) Eric Phagans earliest
childhood memory is one of art. My first memory, in kindergarten
I drew a picture of Bugs Bunny made it life size. The teacher
went crazy over it and hung it up.
by Lela Jane Bradshaw
Eric Phagan is known in
Madison , Ind., for his paintings of
prominent landmarks, but elsewhere
it is his sculptures that have
drawn in the crowds.
The enthusiasm of his teacher and classmates for that
one drawing would inspire the budding young artist to try and top
it, to keep improving and keep working toward that next impressive
piece. Youve got to keep people oohing and aahing,
he explains with a smile.
While throughout southern Indiana Phagan, 30, is known as a painter
of famous Madison landmarks, in national art circles it is his sculptures
that are attracting attention and awards. In the past year, his work
has been accepted into a range of prestigious juried exhibitions including
his second appearance in the Lincoln, Calif., Feats of Clay
show, and the Chicago A. Houberbocken Inc. 20th Annual Teapot Show.
At the 2009 Feats of Clay, his piece Frankenstein received
a Purchase Award this following the sculptures Award
of Merit at the 2008 HWD Ohio sculpture competition and
show. Closer to home, Phagans mixed media piece Horse
received the Best in Show Award at the third annual Spring Juried Exhibition
in Rising Sun, Ind.
While a selection of Phagans paintings, prints, and smaller sculptures
are available for display and sale at Binzers Custom Framing in
downtown Madison, much of his sculpted work winds up traveling to Hospitality
Galleries in Orlando, where he has found an enthusiastic market. Phagan
explains that sculpture physically engages the viewer a lot more
for me in comparison to paintings. He also appreciates the timelessness
of sculpture. Its always great to make something you know
will be around a lot longer than you.
While his art displays a strong contemporary look, it is also work that
shows a strong dialog with the past. I love the old buildings
of Madison, Phagan says. Instead of giving the viewer just
what they would see, he works to portray a sense of atmosphere
when painting the familiar city streets. This ability to capture the
heart of a structure has led to his popularity as a painter of house
portraits, allowing owners to enjoy artwork based on their own homes.
Phagan consciously highlights the pull between past and present as he
describes a recent painting completed in honor of the Madison Railroads
30th anniversary, the kinetic lines give a timeworn, contemporary
Phagans artistic studies allowed him a basis in classical art
that informs his own vision for the future. While competing his Bachelors
of Fine Art at the Herron School of Art and Design now part
of Indiana University-Purdue University Phagan had the opportunity
to participate in the schools study abroad program. Studying
in Paris you see a lot of the older work, he says. The chance
to view the famous and controversial Shroud of Turin that was on a rare
public tour during his visit proved particularly inspirational.
That sparked an interest in drawing with fire, he recalls,
I took a stick, dipped in some gas and just started drawing with
it. The result was a massive 6x5-foot drawing of three figures,
captured in a combination of scorch marks and charcoal.
In addition to external influences, Phagan looks to his own history
for inspiration. I like to take childhood memories mixed with
ideology and current events to come up with this creepy cool sculpture,
In explaining his work he writes,I create narratives by exposing
the uneasy struggle between this world and the other, somehow similar
world of my childhood imaginings... This ability to tap into a
childs powerful, and sometimes frightening imagination helps give
his work its unique look.
Fellow artist and owner of Binzers Custom Framing, Chip Binzer,
explains the appeal of Phagans work saying, I think it is
because he does a different approach to colors. He uses black in a way
a lot of artists dont.
His first exposure to Phagans work came when the then high school
student brought in some of his pieces to be framed. Today, Phagan and
Binzer work together in the framing studio.
Chip has definitely been a big help, Phagan said.
Phagan and his wife, Jessica, soon hope to open a gallery in downtown
Madison and plans are in the works to teach art classes to children
For more information, visit: www.EricPhaganart.com
Back to December 2009