A lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, Erika Stearly has been making paintings of domestic spaces for over a decade. She's found inspiration in vintage home remodeling magazines, the IKEA catalog, photos taken in friend's houses, searching sublet rental ads on Craigslist, and most recently through Instagram.
Using a combination of watercolor and acrylic paint, Stearly quickly sketches in the setting. Despite being loosely rendered, exaggerated and often brightly colored, the collection of domestic items depicted still manage to evoke the sense of a particular place. Stearly's paintings are often titled by street address or named after the people who live there. She is convinced that contemporary realities are complex enough to sustain multiple approaches to painting. As a result, she integrates representational image-making with abstraction’s emphasis on materiality and mark-making in her interior paintings to depict the beautiful clutter of domestic items. The imagery in her paintings balance an impulse to faithfully render the objects against the emphasis on the hand of the artist. The combination of abstraction and representation romanticizes these spaces in a way that invites the viewer to construct their own narrative of the scene.
Ms. Stearly is no longer pursuing teaching opportunities and now works full time as a studio artist, although she works a few days a week for a local independent bookstore. "The bookstore provides things my personal studio practice cannot," she says. "It provides face time with other small business owners, conversations with smart and curious folks in town, access to books, and all the free coffee I could ever drink."
Her paintings, which are both fictional and biographical, have been featured in exhibitions around the world. She is the recipient of several artist grants, most recently through the Puffin Foundation and the Black Rock Arts Foundation for her work with Take a Painting, her 2013 interactive painting installation. Stearly has been supported through Fellowships and Residencies at Wilson College, Kutztown University, and Penn State University, where she taught undergraduate painting. She is a graduate of Kutztown University, where she completed her BFA in 2009 and a graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her MFA in 2014.