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issue 11 - Dec/Jan 2012-2013
CURVE magazine cover Dec/Jan 2012-2013
    

He's Got Blood on His Hands

He's Got Blood on His Hands

THE CREATIONS OF MOST ARTISTS ARE OFTEN THE RESULT OF MUCH SWEAT, BLOOD AND TEARS. IN THE CASE OF JORDAN EAGLES, THAT STATEMENT MAY BE TAKEN BOTH FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY, MAYBE MINUS THE TEARS DRAMA. THE NEW YORK BASED ARTIST EXPERIMENTS WITH BLOOD, ANIMAL BLOOD, WHICH HE USUALLY SPLATTERS ON A PLEXIGLASS AND UV RESIN BASE. ASSUMING THAT EAGLES CREATES HIS ELABORATE IMAGES FOR SHOCK VALUE WOULD BE A HASTY CONCLUSION, ON CLOSER INSPECTION, HIS ART CONVEYS PROFOUND INSIGHTS, RAISING QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE, DEATH, AND REBIRTH. 'BLOOD IS A LIFE FORCE AND I AM INTERESTED IN IDEAS OF REGENERATION, MORTALITY AND THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BODY, SPIRIT AND UNIVERSE,' THE 35-YEAR-OLD ARTIST SAYS.

Whether in his small pieces, largescale installations or sculptures, in which blood patterns are projected onto naked human bodies, Eagles does not channel gory scenes from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Through his experimental, invented process, he preserves slaughterhouse blood so that the organic material retains its natural colors, patterns, and textures. Thus, the works become relics of that which was once living, embodying an allegory of death to life.

It was while he was a student at New York University that Eagles first got his hands full with blood, the material he substituted with red paint, which he felt did not quite capture the spirit he was shooting for, the charge of life. Fourteen years since Eagles bought his first pint of blood, his blood thirst has by no means quieted.

While you’re not the first artist to work with blood, it remains a rarity. Was it hard to get art patrons to believe in you at first?
Yes. The early works, although interesting and experimental, were not particularly refined. Early on, people were skeptical as to my motivations. However, as viewers began to realize that my works are not created for shock value but, instead that the philosophical notions of regeneration and the blood's energy are central to my process, and, as the techniques in the works developed, viewers seemed to take my studio practice and the works themselves more seriously. Thankfully, there are now many patrons who support my efforts and works.

What is it that blood can achieve as a material which no other medium can?
The textures, color, and variations between the different ages of blood all offer a very interesting palette. There are a couple fundamental differences between paint and blood that I find most important... Blood emits an intense, spiritual energy. And in my works, lighting plays a role. So when you blast a spotlight onto the works, the blood, which is suspended inside the translucent resin, appears as though it is floating and then the light casts a shadow of blood on the wall behind the work. This luminosity and translucency allow the viewer to see the details of the blood and take in its glow and power. Also equally important is the fact that humans do not have paint running through their veins. Everyone has a personal relationship with blood and the works allow viewers to get up close to the blood in a new way that they might not normally experience.

Your work is very labor-intensive and there are different steps for different styles. What are the essential steps for creating one of your artworks?
There are a few key steps in the process: Freezing the blood, ageing it, heating it, preserving it, creating blood dust, mixing the blood with supplementary materials such as copper and gauze, controlling the temperature in the studio, working with the resin, fabrication of the plexiglass, and making the marks.

You also use such things as copper at times to reach your intended effects. How do these materials help?
Copper is a conductor of electricity. Mixing it with the blood creates a fiery effect and infuses it with additional energy. Sometimes the blood/copper mixture appears like lightning and molten lava.

In your personal opinion, what is the most stimulating element about working with blood?
One thing that I have learned over the years is to trust in the blood's energy and beauty as being perfect as it is, and to not judge the work for the beauty that I desire from it, but to honor the inherent beauty that it contains. Many of my recent works are a balance between control and nature. Sometimes allowing the blood to behave as it would on its own and removing the obvious mark-making, brings the most power.

Although the idea of blood is present in the back of our mind when looking at your pieces, the artworks are not exactly grotesque. Is this a conscious effort?
I find blood's natural colors and textures to be hypnotic, and I hope that viewers will find the same fascination in the material and have a visceral response. Occasionally, there are people who find my work to be grotesque. More often than not, however, viewers seem to appreciate the work and concepts. My intention is to always treat the blood with respect. It is a sacred material.

What has remained constant as your oeuvre evolved?
The fundamental themes, like questions about death and life, the connection of body, spirit and the universe are still concepts that fascinate me. The blood in my work has always come from an expired source, cattle blood procured from a slaughterhouse. Taking the blood from something that is no longer living, and then presenting it back through art reactivates the material in a new way. The blood becomes something different, something new again. This is a similar process that I believe happens to all living things after death, a rebirth.

After collecting the blood from a slaughterhouse, how do you usually store it?
The blood comes in one-gallon containers that I break down into smaller pint-size containers. I then freeze the blood in a large industrial freezer and defrost as needed. Any fresh blood that is not initially used is aged for up to three years, and then turned into a blood dust that can then be reused in the works. This is the best way not to waste the material and it becomes another way of recycling the blood.

What is the harshest criticism your work has ever received?
Three instances come to mind: The first was being banned from an exhibition, because the director of the institution felt that viewers could not handle the blood; the second was being protested by animal rights activists at the opening of one of my exhibitions; and the third was having a viewer almost faint at one my exhibitions.

What are the most unexpected interpretations that your artwork has generated?
I am always surprised when viewers make associations of my works to pop art. Although I understand it, it still surprises me.

Do you feel blood might be a limiting medium to work with in the long term?
I view the material as full of energy and possibilities and I fully intend on working with it for as long as I continue to be inspired by it. There is still a lot more for me to uncover and create.

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