Blood artist to speak at Everson

Jordan Eagles, an artist who uses pig blood to create his work, will be speaking at the Everson Museum of Art about his inspiration. His exhibit, 'Red Giant,' will be on display through Jan. 5.

In 1998, art hobbyist Jordan Eagles slathered his canvas with red paint until it dripped down the white surface. The New York University student was trying to represent blood, but he was failing. His images looked flat; they weren’t coming alive like he’d wanted them to.

So he went to Chinatown and bought a pint of pig’s blood.

“I tried not being symbolic of the blood, but using authentic material,” he said.

He never looked back.

Eagles has honed his unique craft over the past 15 years, and now he has it down to an art, literally. He works by preserving blood in plexiglass and UV resin, sometimes adding copper to alter the color to a golden bronze.

Eagles’ exhibit, Red Giant, will be on display at the Everson Museum of Art through Jan. 5, and he will be at the museum at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, for an artist talk.

Eagles’ initial interest in representing blood in his art came from studying a series of images from a medical encyclopedia. The illustrated line drawings were so clean, sterile, emotionless — not at all representative of his ideas of life.

“Everything is connected,” Eagles said. “That’s the exploration. Is our body and our spirit connected in one vessel? After you die, what happens to the spirit?”

One of the more striking aspects of Red Giant comes from a room at the Everson usually dedicated to video and multimedia projects. In the room, four old-fashioned overhead projectors sit on the floor. Eagles has preserved blood in intricate patterns on the projectors’ glass, and the work overlaps and covers the walls. Viewers’ shadows appear upon entrance, putting them into the artwork.

“The projections are about transforming spaces and creating an area where viewers can participate,” Eagles said.

The exhibit explores the same ideas that have been a theme in his work from the beginning: the relationship between the body and the spirit and life after death. But it does so through the lens of the universe. The work asks questions about human connection — both spiritual and physical — to outer space.

“There’s always been an interest in outer space,” Eagles said. “That’s something that’s been in my brain and psyche for a while.”

He said he was inspired by the belief that the soul leaves earth after the body dies, as well as the fact that humans wouldn’t physically exist if not for stardust. He called the exhibit Red Giant for the obvious reason: Blood is red. But it’s also in reference to what our star, the sun, will become in about 5 billion years when it dies.

Steven Kern, executive director at the Everson, said he had no reservations about bringing Eagles’ work to the museum.

“We’ve got a really great history of doing things first,” he said, citing the Everson’s 1971 opening of Yoko Ono’s exhibit This is Not Here, as well as its collection of ceramics which dates back to 1916, a time when such collections were largely unheard of. “While he’s already had shows and enjoyed critical acclaim, it’s still early in his career.”

Kern said he first saw Eagles’ work at the R. Wells Gallery in Binghamton, N.Y.

“I just found the work to be completely engaging,” Kern said. “Think of how loaded blood as a medium is. On top of the stories and messages, it’s just beautiful.”

Eagles said he never imagined he’d become a professional artist when he was working with his first pint of blood in 1998, and he’s still figuring out what being an artist means to him. But he feels grateful for the opportunities he’s had along the way.

“Artists are very lucky when they find supporters to give them venues to show their work,” he said.

On the contrary, Kern insists it is the museums and their patrons who are the lucky ones.

“To find an artist who pushes the envelope and can redefine our expectations of the viewer, that’s exciting,” Kern said. “All art was new at some point.”

Eagles will be discussing his inspiration and artistic process at Thursday’s gallery talk, which is free and open to the public.

Photos from Red Giant by Jessica Cabe

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