Artist Erik Mark Sandberg explores the intersections of landscapes, tacos and razzle dazzle

"Girl with a Floral Headband" (2011) by Erik Mark Sandberg.

“Girl with a Floral Headband” (2011) by Erik Mark Sandberg.

For artist, Illustration alumnus and Art Center at Night (ACN) instructor Erik Mark Sandberg, life is constantly presenting contradictions ripe for artistic exploration.

“I was on my way recently to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to do some backpacking and thought, Gosh, look at that pristine pastoral landscape, when suddenly my view was obstructed by a large billboard advertising that Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme were available at the next gasoline station,” says Sandberg with a laugh. “And I thought Wow, those look good and I do need fuel. It was so strange.”

Such dichotomies inspired Sandberg’s “Hairy Children” series, which includes Girl with a Floral Headband (2011) as seen above and also as featured on the cover of the current ACN catalog. His mixed-media “Hairy Children” portraits began with a few pieces in his 2008 solo show The Equilibrium of Glamour at New York’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery. As Sandberg explains, his work prior to that show featured an overwhelming array of pop culture imagery, but didn’t focus on the psychological effects that a constant bombardment of seductive images was having on himself or society.

Artist Erik Mark Sandberg.

Artist Erik Mark Sandberg.

“When I started the ‘Hairy Children’ portraits, I wanted to internalize the effects of popular culture,” says Sandberg, when explaining how the synthetic neon-colored hair flowing out from the skin of his ‘Hairy Children’ is a metaphor for the unseen effects of visual inundation. ”That pink [on Girl with a Floral Headband] is so easily digested and tantalizing, but it’s also alarmist and fighting for your attention. And then, if you go one layer deeper, there’s a more flawed message underneath.”

That flawed message is what Sandberg likens to a consumer version of Stockholm Syndrome, that psychological condition in which a hostage creates an emotional bond with his captor. It’s a condition Sandberg finds the medium of painting particularly well suited to address. “Painting is so much slower than advertising,” says Sandberg. “So I try to translate the razzle dazzle of advertising into my work, while still keeping the slow language of painting.”

"Boy with Green Plaid Shirt" (2011) by Erik Mark Sandberg.

“Boy with Green Plaid Shirt” (2011) by Erik Mark Sandberg.

Sandberg’s clients have included United Airlines, Absolut Vodka and TBWA Paris and his work has appeared in publications like Rolling StoneThe New York Times, and Harvard Business Review. He is currently preparing There’s a Trapdoor in the Sun, a pop-up solo exhibition in Los Angeles—which will include installations, sculptures, film and large-scale photographs–for winter 2014 through Segal Projects.

Art Center at Night (ACN), the continuing studies program at Art Center College of Design, offers nearly 200 innovative courses in design and the visual arts, and is designed for busy adults, with courses held during the day, in the evenings and on weekends. Registration for Fall 2013 courses is now open. Classes begin September 9.

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