Meet The Artist in Residence: Erika Kari McCarthy

Erika McCarthy, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. Erika is also an MSA Residency alumni, she was here in January 2019 as well! We asked Erika some questions about her work and studio practice:

Q: Remind us who you are where you’re coming from?
I’m an interdisciplinary artist but I often simplify things by calling myself a sculptor because my work relates to mass and presence (things sculptors are often caught up in).  I have been making art in one form or another for as long as I remember, earning my BFA from RIT a few years back, and was lucky enough to be in residence with Main St. Arts last January.  In my other life, I run an artist residency in the Hudson Valley with my partner-in-crime James Adelman, a painter who is also in residence with me this month.


Erika working on a copper sculpture, photographed by James Adelman

Q: What inspired you to come back as a returning resident to Main Street Arts?
I find the heart of winter to be one of the most inspiring and productive times of year to make art. Being an artist-in-residence last January was tremendously beneficial for my creative practice. I spent much of the month marveling at bare trees stark against sheets of ice, nestling into the quiet of a snow-blanketed landscape,  giving myself time and space to unravel complex questions and immerse myself in the studio devoid of distraction.

Work from January 2019's residency

Work from January 2019′s residency

In the best of ways, the time was very isolating in a manner that allowed me to dig deeply into my creative practice on a personal and genuine level.  This year I am substituting isolation for camaraderie by sharing the residency time with my partner, James Adelman, an astounding painter and observer of light.  He and I often approach problems from different angles and have complementary skill sets, so we’re both always providing resources for the other and supplementing each other’s ability to get things done. We have more force &energy as an alliance than we do as individual entities, so I’m excited to see how our work shifts alongside one another over the course of the month.

Sculptural view of the Horizon of the Earth, November 2019

Sculptural view of the Horizon of the Earth, November 2019

Q: Tell us about your current projects.
My most current project, “iterations of ghosts”, is an attempt to merge my ongoing sculptural work into larger environments and use photography to capture the resulting image. I am attempting  to collaborate with the environment  – from earth to sky to architecture and everything in between – to try and find a point where sculpture becomes something as broad and encompassing as the very horizon of the earth.

Collaborations with Body & Landscape, November 2019

Collaborations with Body & Landscape, November 2019

The photography for this series happens alongside the development of the sculpture itself;  I am building a form by intricately weaving copper wire into a laced pattern, a tedious process that thus far has produced a webbed body built from 1300 ft of thin gauge copper threads. As more copper wire is woven in and the form grows, I photograph its current body in an environment and see how  it’s presence shifts within each situation – watching where the copper web disappears then falls back into existence, seeing where it catches sunlight and where it casts shadow, etc.

My process lends itself to being incredibly tedious – lacing hundred of strands of thin copper into one another becomes a imbued with a sense of ritual over the many days and many many hours it takes me to work on a project. I am obsessed with the repetition of elements beyond a reasonable number, layering thread on top of thread to the point of absurdist intricacy.

Installing and photographing the work over its evolution allows me to see its permutations  and how its elements shift, allowing the sculptural body to morph and change over time with no defined start and end point. I’m excited to continue this project while in residence, finding new environments and collaborations and seeing how the sculpture itself develops as I put more labor into it.

Item from the series iterations of ghosts

Q: Where else can we find you?

You can find me on instagram: @erikakari and on my website:


Meet The Artist in Residence: James Adelman

James Adelman, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2020, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked James some questions about his work and studio practice:

James Adelman in his Brooklyn studio.

James Adelman in his Brooklyn studio.

Q: How would you describe your work?
Pretty traditional by most standards. I find 2-dimensions wholly adequate to convey infinite possibilities, so primarily I make oil paintings and charcoal drawings.

I am fascinated with contradictory notions and emotions felt simultaneously. The intersections and parallels of futility and persistence, despair and hope, loneliness and contentment.

Many are representational featuring ambiguous subjects with ephemeral, atmospheric qualities. They could read like stills from a movie reel, telling a nonlinear story. Sometimes haunting, but with stillness and quietude as well.

"Three Dresses" Charcoal on Paper 18 x 24"

“Three Dresses” Charcoal on Paper 18 x 24″

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Often my work begins with a meditation or visualization exercise, followed by small sketches. I try to stay in a trance state and think as little as possible for as long as possible.

The sketches are translated into drawings, staged photographs, or paintings. Any of these may serve as the basis of further drawings, photos, or paintings. Sketches become photos become drawings that inform more photos that become paintings. Like a cycle.

The idea or visual is not as critical to me as maintaining the mood or emotion throughout the process. I want work imbued with emotional resonance and pictures which solicit emotive response and elude analysis.

Meditation Derived Charcoal Study 9 x 12" and Oil on Canvas 30 x 40"

Meditation Derived Charcoal Study 9 x 12″ and Oil on Linen 30 x 40″

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I was nominated to apply for a Pollock-Krasner Foundation photography grant, so one project will be developing that portfolio. But also paintings and drawings.

I have a mountain of ideas, visuals, and references built up from the Summer which I just haven’t had psychic space to reflect on or organize. Main Street Arts seems like the right place to regain that space and dive in and see some of the longstanding projects advance.

Q: How do you promote your artwork?
I don’t really! Or at least I’m terrible at it. I carry forward announcements for events etc for the sake of the venues, but  most opportunities and supporters come to me through friends. It all comes back to friends. We are a tribal species.

James Adelman, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 40″

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists and inspirations?
Not just visual artists. Bruce Lee, David Lynch, Mr. Rogers, Gerhard Richter, Friends, Mark Tansey, Lisa Yuskavage, Marilyn Minter, Inka Essenhigh, Stanley Kubrick, Emily Evelleth, Edward Hopper, Vilhelm Hammershoi, James Casebere, Amy Bennet, George Tooker, Francis Bacon, Whistler, Kurt Cobain,… the list goes on and perpetually evolves, of course.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
Imagination! Then eye, mind, and hand. After that I think I use a palette knife most. Also I’m a big fan of homemade painting carts and how they evolve organically. Sort of a hobby.

James’ Studio Cart

Q: Do you collect artwork? Tell us about your collection.
Yes when I’m able, but only modestly scaled work. I have about 20 pieces, most came from friends as gifts or trades. Sometimes residents leave work out of gratitude, which is always humbling and amazing. There’s an amazing Alex Kanevsky I won in a raffle I could never have afforded it otherwise. I also got a Dik Liu at a Christmas benefit.

Q: What was your experience like at art school?
I think this quote from Mark Twain about sums it up: “I’m glad I did it, partly because it was well worth it, but mostly because I shall never have to do it again”

Q: Who are your strongest influences and why?
Ha, this will be a long one… Inka Essenhigh had a profound impact on me and my work. I admired her a lot then unbelievably she taught a class while I was in grad school. Later I was her teaching assistant for the same class: ‘Painting from Imagination’. It rocked my world. It is crazy that I know her.

Inka Essenhigh "Forms from Deep Underground" 2014, Oil on linen, 54 x 64"

Inka Essenhigh “Forms from Deep Underground” 2014, Oil on linen, 54 x 64″

Mark Tansey must be the most influential artist for me though. I was his studio assistant for several years and a huge fan long before. He employs one assistant at a time and there is a mentorship component, which he considers a long standing painting tradition.

He worked for Helen Frankenthaler around the same age and was very open with techniques, materials, and process with me.

Mark Tansey "White on White" Oil on Canvas, 78 x 138.5"

Mark Tansey “White on White” Oil on Canvas, 78 x 138.5″

It was incredible meeting an artist I’ve studied and for years and emulated for a time. Being able to ask about pictures in the book and told almost exactly how they were made, plus insights and revelations surrounding them at length. I got to see new work develop stage by stage. It is hard for that not to permeate the subconscious, especially if your willing.

I traveled to Rhode Island 3-4 days at a time, staying in a guest house over the garage. He has a Tribeca studio, but  Rhode Island was the primary workplace. We’d have dinner each night and talk art, philosophy, politics etc for hours.

Mark Tansey "The Innocent Eye Test" Oil on Canvas, 78 x 120"

Mark Tansey “The Innocent Eye Test” Oil on Canvas, 78 x 120″

It was amazing to have access to such a powerful intellect, especially in an ongoing format like that. The conversations could carry on to great depths as we reconvened consecutive nights and weeks.

Challenging at times too though, sometimes I had to read whole books just to participate. Often his wife Jean, who I regard as highly and deserves all credit for the food, would join us. They are an extraordinarily generous family in all regards.

Q: What’s next for you?
Driving to Utah to see my brother’s brand new baby! Then not sure. Probably driving aimlessly to places I’ve never seen, exploring. Taking advantage of having remote work and a Saab. I know I’ll be back in Woodstock again in May.

James Adelman "Swingset" Charcoal on Paper, 18 x 24"

James Adelman “Swingset” Charcoal on Paper, 18 x 24″

Q: Where else can we find you?
On my website, and @AdelmanArt on Instagram.