Checking in With: Elaine Bradford

by Glasstire May 19, 2020

View and bid on Elaine Bradford’s piece in The Glasstire Auction here.

Houston-based artist Elaine Bradford talks to Glasstire about art-inspired poems, the best pandemic TV, and crocheted cacti.

Sculpture by Texas artist Elaine Bradford

Elaine Bradford, Imposter, 2017, 7 x 14 x 7 inches. Mixed media

How are you doing?

It’s a roller coaster of emotions every day… .

Tell us about your piece in the Glasstire auction.

Imposter is a piece from the project Routine Fables that I did with the Houston poet Sara Cress. Every week in 2017 I created a small sculpture, and Sara responded with a poem. (You can find the poem for this piece here.) In the end, the 52 sculptures/poems were shown at Lawndale Art Center and we published a book to go with the exhibition. The entire collection documents a year fraught with challenges and change, from the beginning of the Trump presidency, to us both turning 40, to Hurricane Harvey. It was a rough year that I can now look back on fondly for producing a significant series of work, and building a great friendship with Sara. Our current challenging year is not proving as productive.

How are you spending your days?

Mostly, on my couch. I live alone, so there is a lot of isolation. I see neighbors in passing when walking my dog, but most days that’s the total of the in-person socialization I get. I call my parents every day just to make sure they are being as safe and isolated as they can (they are doing their best, though they’re not as militant as I would like). Other than that there’s been a lot of watching TV. Rewatching some of all time my favorite shows (The West Wing; Buffy), and anything new that looks interesting (The Morning Show was so good). I can’t seem to quiet my mind enough to read books; whenever I sit down to try I just start to worry. At the beginning of the pandemic I was taking in news articles all the time. Now I am trying to take in as little news as possible, because it seems once I read one article it leads me down a spiral of despair. I’m trying my best to make some art, it’s going very slowly.

What do you do to de-stress?

De-stress? What’s that? I’m not great at that.

I have been trying to spend some time in my yard, planting and watching things grow. And some days I take the time to lay in my hammock and listen to a podcast; I should do that more.

Cooking helps me de-stress; the dishes do not. Though I haven’t been to an actual grocery store since March, I’ve been picking up veggies from a local farm, Verdegreens Farms, and have enjoyed figuring out what to make with the veggies I’m given and the staples in my pantry. (Soon, I am going to have to break down and go to a grocery store, but I’m going to put it off a little longer, because it feels like a challenge at this point.)

I’ve also been making a lot of crochet cacti. Crochet has always been a soothing practice for me in times of stress. I did it non stop in the aftermath of 9/11 which led to some significant turning points in my art practice. The cacti, unlike sculpture, help me feel productive while also not stressing me out about big ideas. I just get to have fun with them and create these bright and cheery things. I’ve been really enjoying making larger groupings since I have so much time on my hands.

How is the pandemic affecting your work?

I already spent my days working from home, so not much has changed in that regard, except my level of anxiety. Turns out, I’m not very productive when under so much stress. Worrying about the pandemic, the economy, and my family and friends, on top of everything else, has put a dent in my art making. I have been doing a 30-day quarantine Instagram art challenge for over 60 days now and every day I wonder how many more I should do? How long is this going to go on? They seem really dumb, but also are helping me continue to create in at least a small way. They actually kind of remind me of Routine Fables.

I can’t seem to concentrate on what I would consider my actual art. I have two exhibitions that are supposed to happen in the fall, and you would think this would be the perfect time to buckle down and get that work done, but I can’t seem to be able to motivate myself to work on those things. Those “big” things seem too big to deal with right now, The small postcard-sized collages seem more doable. Eventually, hopefully, the big stuff will start flowing.

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