Eli Craven Interview - The Hopper Prize

Eli Craven

Eli Craven discusses how music influenced his early production, identity & the image's potential to reshape conventions, inspiration derived from found objects, & exploring the relationship between collecting and desire.

How did you get into making art?

In some ways it has always been with me, but in different forms. When I was young I was into music. I obsessed over listening to music and researching artists and bands. It shaped my identity and my understanding of the world around me. As I grew, my creative interests grew as well, and I became interested in studio art and photography as an undergrad in college. My interest in photography has now developed into sculpture and installation, but at the core I’m still concerned with identity and the image’s potential to reshape conventions, both social and personal.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the early stages of new work. I am creating photographs of found objects I feel an attraction to. The most recent was a portable, bonnet hair dryer. It is pastel pink, cream, and blue. I don’t have canned responses for this work yet, but I know color is important. I think it’s about the relationship between collecting and desire, or falling in love with things over and over again.

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I recently unpacked from a big move, a different house and a different studio. Sometimes moving is like taking inventory. I felt forced to re-evaluate my belongings and consider how many times I have packed and unpacked some of the same items over the years. Additionally, I was thinking about Sarah Charlesworth’s work “Objects of Desire” and it led me to the attraction I feel towards objects, appliances, and materials.

At the core I'm still concerned with identity and the image's potential to reshape conventions.

Eli Craven

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

It’s a bit of both. I am always looking at sources, making photographs, and experimenting with materials, and the results typically generate ideas that develop into distinct projects. I get bored of repetition and I tend to work on multiple projects at once. My practice is always the same, yet different.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

It’s typically messy. Pre-covid I would often leave the studio to search for books, objects, and found photos at second hand shops. I would organize, analyze, and document the materials before moving onto working with them. Due to covid-19, I didn’t have access to a studio for 4 months, and this forced me to work digitally and on a small scale. I am now getting back into a studio and a routine is finally starting to feel normal, but I still don’t go out much. Both the before and after studio routine consists of creating photographs, cutting up photographs, working in the wood shop, listening to music, and drinking coffee. Some things don’t change.

Who are your favorite artists?

Most recently I’ve been loving the work of Anja Niemi, Monika Baer, Eva Koťátková, Pacifico Silano, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya, to name a few. I am listening to Patrick Flegel’s project Cindy Lee in the studio. My favorites are always changing and I like so many artists, but I think Isa Genzken is always at the top.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I use instagram quite a bit to follow organizations like Aperture Foundation, or galleries like The Ravestijn Gallery, or Melk, and of course The Hopper Prize. We also collect a lot of books and I discover artists looking through publication subscriptions too. I enjoy getting away from my screens and looking through a book. My most recent book purchase is “Why Photography” published by Skira in Oslo. It’s excellent.

Eli Craven is an artist based in West Lafayette, IN who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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