Monument Artist Erik Blome Leaves for Egypt for Work on Fulbright Award
Monument Artist Erik Blome very graciously gave me a few minutes of his time for an interview in these few hectic days before leaving for Egypt to work on his Fulbright project.
While he was working on our Monument, he was notified that he was a recipient of this highly sought after Award. He will be a goodwill ambassador of the United States and travel to study granite carving at Helwan University, Cairo Egypt. He also hopes to set up a foundry and teach bronze casting there. He describes his main role as one of student, however. “Instead of a megaphone, I will go as a sponge and absorb as much as I can. I will try to help them cast their sculptures in bronze, but as a Fulbright Scholar, you are not supposed to be going to change their culture, but to absorb and study it to make yourself better. Personal change is more important to me in this expedition than honing the skills that I already have.”
He went on to explain, “Going to a foreign place is a good influence in your life. I hope to absorb things that make a fundamental difference in how I work. I’m so methodical with figurative work because that’s my history. Now I’m 44 years old and I want to do something new. I don’t want to give up the figure, but I want to take it and enlarge upon it. Can I take forms that aren’t figurative and combine them? Can I incorporate stone into my work?”
When asked what he’s done to prepare, he stated, “I’ve learned the Egyptian alphabet and I can write and pronounce the letters. I know some words. I have studied ancient Egyptian art and I want to go back and look at it again. I’ve made connections with various Egyptian artists and I want to meet them. I have two giant boxes full of art supplies and I’ve been planning for stone carving.”
When asked if he had concerns for his personal safety, considering the political upheaval in Egypt in the news lately, he stated that he was educated heavily as to what was appropriate behavior and what was not. As an artist, his message transcends politics and he plans to stay close to the University and far away from any protests or conflict. The Fulbright program keeps a close watch on current events and is very safety minded. Fulbright Scholars are fully briefed and supported so that their educational exchange can continue despite a dynamic and changing political environment.
He will be working until May in Egypt, then hopes to make a quick trip to Ethiopia, the birthplace of his adopted son and where he has done extensive volunteer work. He hopes to have an exploratory visit to locate sites for water wells. Blome has a vision to incorporate art and sculpture into the design of the new wells, which should go to a depth of 100 feet. “Local women spend much of their day working around these wells. Why do they have to look like something just slapped together? I want to combine these two efforts and bring water into these communities and use the work of local artists too.” He also plans to have a few days to see ancient Greek art and architecture before he heads back to Illinois.
I asked him what he thought of the Monument so far. He said that he was pleased. “It was a breakthrough for me in a style that I never did before. I think the beams and the art work together in concert. This is what I was trying to achieve. If I failed, the art would detract from the beams. I was very careful to get the right shape, proportion, and size – and not to overpower the beams, but at the same time make a bold statement. When I finally saw it erected, it was what I was hoping. It’s working as a plaza and a space. It makes the beams more exciting and gives the art more meaning by attaching to the beams.”
He went on, “September 11, 2001 was an iconic event in everyone’s life. I think the sculptures capture the feeling that people had. Memories are jogged in a way that is historical and not grotesque. I tried to stick to real and positive imagery, not symbolic. I think it works. It’s tastefully done. I don’t feel bad looking at this. I steered away from the negatives and stuck to the positives.”
It is likely that Erik won’t be back for the completion of the final details of the Monument site when construction resumes in the springtime. He will be able to give us updates from Egypt, and will have internet and email as well. Your Monumental Team wishes him safe travels and a very rich and transformative educational experience in Egypt. We are very proud of our Artist as he begins this very prestigious and unique phase in his careeer.
Additional information on the Fulbright Scholar Program may be obtained by clicking ===> HERE <===