This keyboard is a piece of shit. That may sound like something your coworker would mutter but, in this instance, it is the title of artwork by Greenpoint-based artist Stephen Eakin.
To begin exploring Eakin’s artwork on simple terms, he focuses on sculptural pieces made of found objects then combined with his own woodworking. These works explore the meaning of objects, how they gain that meaning and why a viewer should pay more attention to one item over the other. Influenced by the Shakers’ transcendent connection with creating objects, Eakin’s work plays on the dichotomy that this hand-crafted furniture simply becomes a place to put another object. In this case that object is often a more manufactured, found item that has indiscriminately been assigned greater value. These hand-crafted creations made by Eakin himself become the frame or even pedestal of a found object such as a sweatshirt or baseball cap. This will leave you, as a viewer, to decide which object you assign more value to, which of these is the true “work of art”?
Following the lead of This keyboard is a piece of shit, many of the titles of his works encompass the same low-key sense of humor. Other recently shown works include I don’t know where I got this sticker but I’ve had it for awhile now, I found this hat on the ground in a parking lot, and These cedar pinecones are from my parents’ home in northern California and I have no fucking clue why they came to New York with me.
Eakin began exploring the meaning of objects with items that had belonged to his family members. He found that at times the more serious sounding and the natural sentimentality often prevented some viewers from seeing past the personal emotions of the object. Adding a sense of humor now helps his works be quick to captivate, while still leaving the viewer with something to think about. The humor in the titles, the feel of upfront descriptions, serve to help expand the meaning. These sentences ensure the pieces are still contemplative but as Eakin explained the viewer will, “be giggly while doing so.”
Stephen Eakin grew up in Northern California, went to school in Minneapolis citing all of these moves as having had a good amount of influence on his art. “The places I’ve lived, except for here,” he says, “weren’t representative of what people think of them usually… the Midwest had more community based art, with public funding. While the commercial art is really small there. When I was in the Midwest I was doing more installation and new media stuff, while here and California, I tend to move more towards object making, sort of a more fundamental way of creating.”
And while his work revolves around random everyday objects, collectables and items, Eakin describes himself as more of a minimalist. “The less I have the happier I am,” he says.
Currently creating in his third studio in Greenpoint, Eakin has called the neighborhood home base since 2012. Upon visiting his Greenpoint Avenue studio, he told us that, “The rent brought me to Greenpoint. But I stay here now because of the good artist community that is not as overwhelmed as Bushwick. It usually draws more sincere crowds out [to see the art.]” It is just the right location for him and his wife (also an artist) as it is close to both of their studios and just a ten-minute bike ride to their current home. One thing he does miss about the neighborhood? Pizza from the now-closed Grandma Rose’s.
To see more of Stephen Eakin’s work, StephenEakin.com