Erika Diamond: Object to Artifact

By Kate Nation

Erika Diamond, a 2006 and 2011 Alumna Artist, refers to her mixed media as “bits of nothing.” She imparts power to the discarded goods she uses to create her sculptural work. While she sees a certain sadness in the abandoned remnants of individual lives, she finds comfort in giving meaning to these objects through an ongoing narrative. 

Diamond has used discarded plastic bottles, onion skins, eggshells, forgotten family photographs, and human hair to explore objects as an extension of both the individual and the human collective. Her process hints at archeology and anthropology. By accumulating, organizing, and considering physical fragments, she creates order out of chaos, beauty out of sadness, and imbues the once obsolete with meaning.

Diamond’s use of materials extends beyond reference and becomes a way to catalog experience. Her recent work, garments constructed from discarded eggshells, are performative pieces meant to document interactions between the artist and audience. Worn by Diamond in performance, Eggshell Glove for Shaking Hands records a handshake while Eggshell Garment for Hugging records imprints of hugs. 

Erika Diamond, Eggshell Glove for Shaking Hands, 2013, eggshells stitched between layers of tulle (Courtesy of the artist)

“I believe there is a point at which two touching bodies form one skin,” Diamond states. “My intention is to create new skin that includes both bodies rather than maintaining separation.” Referencing barriers, both natural and constructed, the eggshells become testimonial, enabling her to observe, along with us, a moment between her and another. 

Erika Diamond, Eggshell Shirt for Hugging II, 2015, eggshells stitched between layers of tulle, hugs (Courtesy of the artist)

“By documenting an interaction between myself and another individual, I am immortalizing the impression we made on one another,” she adds. “The object becomes an artifact that extends past that moment, past our lives.”

While Diamond’s work is about direct observation, it is also about being seen. We find physical representation of the artist in the work she developed during her McColl Center art residency in 2011. Diamond was given, among other discarded objects, an anonymous donor’s personal family slides. The resulting work, Family Slides Project, shows Diamond’s image digitally inserted into prints of the slides. The installation allowed viewers to flip through 24 remastered 35mm slides on an old projector. This work was the catalyst for investigating the subject of immortality and influenced her recent eggshell pieces. 

“By insinuating myself into someone else’s history, I extend my own life,” she says. “I’m interested in documenting the traces we leave behind and the marks we leave upon each other. In Family Slides Project, I inserted myself into memories of others as a way to expand my past.”

Erika Diamond, image from the Family Slides Project (Courtesy of the artist)

As art and as artifact, these works are compelling. Diamond intends to continue investigating the imprints made during connection with others as well as the idea of immortality through the objects she creates. Although her art relies on others’ participation, it is driven by an individual need to touch and see, to be touched and seen, and to be remembered.

Top: Erika Diamond, Eggshell Shirt for Hugging II (detail), 2015 (Courtesy of the artist)

Kate Nation is a designer, writer, and ceramicist.