Artist showcases multimedia in Athens

October 17, 2007
Red & Black UGA student newspaper

Artist showcases multimedia in Athens
‘Mixed mediums’ fill works
by Mandy Rogers 

Elliott Earls has dabbled in nearly every artistic medium imaginable, including graphics, music, film and sculpture.

This week, he’s bringing his works to Athens, hosting lectures and film screenings, conducting a workshop and opening an art exhibition.

“I told him what a great music town Athens is, so come spend a week here,” said Mark Callahan, associate director of Ideas for Creative Exploration, a project-based program involving students, faculty and the community.

Callahan first heard of Earls at Cranbrook during his graduate study there, and then saw him perform a one-man show in Detroit.

“He was interacting with video, playing characters on the video and using instruments to trigger different stuff,” Callahan said. “It was really innovative and really kind of blew my mind.”

Earls began art at a camp in Ohio when he was 5 years old. He said he won a contest to make the “strangest hat” and never looked back.

Towards the end of high school, Earls said he explored graphics as a way to make a living in the arts. From there he attended Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to hone his craft.

“Still to this day, I look back on that time very fondly,” Earls said. “I studied figure drawing, 2-D, 3-D designs. The basics of form.”

Earls has received accolades in his work, including the Emerging Artist Grant from Wooster Group in Manhattan, the chance to perform at the Exit Festival outside of Paris and forming the Apollo Program Studio, the studio aspect of his work.

“I always made electronic music and started working towards acoustic music,” Earls said. “I met this totally amazing mandolin player (Benjamin Teague), and we began writing strange, bluegrass, folk songs and started building a band.”

That band, The Venomous Sons of Jonah, will perform at the two sets this weekend at Athens CinĂ©, coinciding with the screening of Earls’ experimental film “Catfish” and clips of his unfinished project “The Saranay Motel.”

Though trained as a graphic designer, Earls said his favorite kind of art is mixing the various mediums he’s learned.

“‘Catfish’ combines animation, live action and performance work,” Earls said. “It’s kind of a documentary of my work. [It] was in a lot of ways about removing the narrative.”

His new movie brings the narrative back with a story of two of Detroit’s least talented hip-hop musicians and their “rags-to-riches-to-rags story” where they find success but lose it all.

His exhibition opens this weekend at Lamar Dodd School of Art and stays through December.

“I produce photographs and objects that are tangentially related to the event, basically sets for the film,” Earls said. “The exhibition will have some of those as well as sculptures, photographs, bronze busts and clay board etchings.”

The workshop Earls is teaching will bring students with an art or music background together to work on “The Saranay Motel.”

Earls will show the class some unfinished scenes of his film and examine the skills those in attendance can bring to it.

“We’re gonna try and brainstorm some small scene to shoot in high definition,” Earls said. “They can actually be in the film.”

Callahan said the workshop is a valuable experience for students at the University.

“The idea is to bring together students who want to be a part of it from all different areas,” Callahan said.

Earls’ week of residence in Athens is jam-packed with a list of eclectic activities, but he said he’s excited.

“I’ve never been to Athens before, and I’ve heard it’s a pretty hip place.”