Eric Anthony Berdis shared his story of finding refuge and courage in art. He talked about imagining a queer space and how he creates that imagined space. He also spoke about the idea of being a parallel player alongside his young students and his continual work to move away from facilitator or director in the classroom. I loved hearing about his process and all the research behind his work. I also loved how he is able to incorporate play and whimsy among all the references and context that goes into his work.
As a queer maker, Eric Anthony Berdis (Erie, PA) continuously finds ways to imagine and embody joy through his practice. Navigating the new normal as an elementary school teacher, and studio artist, he finds himself working in the hours from 5-11 pm. His work embraces a maximalist aesthetic of archival research, personal secrets, and pubescent gay boy glamour. Entering their installation, the audience is transported to a new world. Thrift store castoffs and hobbyist craft supplies are reassembled into a cast of characters that blur the lines between ghost, creature, and friend.
For Eric, the studio becomes a haven in periods of instability, insecurity, and oppression. Happiness, play, and pleasure are not only sought after during difficult times but are arguably necessary components of survival. Joy is an act of resilience—a critical method of subverting hegemonic narratives of suffering. Queer joy in Eric’s work is found through forms of exuberance such as world-building, materials, and escaping into new types of textile processes like quilting.
Eric is a teacher of preschoolers. In his classroom, he tries to become a parallel and collaborative player in his students’ activities. Hoping to not only build a deeper connection to students but also support their development in a way that is true to their interests. They have received their MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Eric has exhibited work at the University Galleries of Illinois State University, Stay Home Gallery, Paris TN, and Bunker Projects, Pittsburgh. His work has been published in Hiss Mag, Emergency Index, and American Painting.