It’s not often you find an artist whose work incorporates nature, meditation and a business plan.
Erika Bartlett’s art starts with tight photos of nature, mostly pictures of the sky. Bartlett manipulates the photos in Photoshop or using mobile phone apps, and the end results are lovely, abstract visions of stratospheric light that virtually glow. In one piece, a power line creates a series of diamonds against an intoxicating color palette of clouds and sunsets. In another photo, Bartlett isolates a circle-shaped image and repeats it on a white background, creating a polka dot grid that reads like a naturalistic wink at pop art.
But there’s more: Bartlett is that rare artist with a business plan who thinks in terms of revenue streams. She prints a series of more expensive work for gallery and online sales on clear acrylic and mounts them on wood panels, but she also prints affordable pieces on cell phone cases, curtains, and other objects; applies for public art projects; and works with businesses and interior designers to print on building materials, with a focus on healthcare.
All of Bartlett’s work originates from a strong belief: humans respond to art that draws from nature and natural patterns.
“Having rhythm is really soothing for us — I think we really like rhythm,” Bartlett says.
It’s not just a hunch. Bartlett purposefully draws on biophilic design in her work, using images meant to make people feel calm.
“You’re essentially using elements of nature in your design,” Erika says. “There are studies that are showing now that people will heal faster, that people’s stress levels are lower when they’re around these visual cues that go back to the environments that we evolved in. So when I’m referencing light and color in these ways, it’s a trigger that seems to bring out a serene reaction in people, and I like that. I like hearing from audiences that they feel really at peace and relaxed when they see my work.”
The business side of Bartlett’s practice, she says, grew out of a need to feel useful.
“I didn’t want to just make art for myself, I really wanted it to be something that had impact and helped other people in some way,” Erika says. “And I think that’s a lot of what business is: you’re fulfilling a niche or you see a need, and you try to be the supplier for that need, to make people’s lives better.”
Bartlett’s show is on display at Angst Gallery in Vancouver through July 29.