This Ethan is one of the most joyful people to socialize with at any given moment. His work frames single events as images and they’re funny. Noodle Between the Moment before a Kiss particularly reminds me of pop culture romance, i.e. Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. The piece is a snapshot example of a benign interaction that is considered to be romantic because it is collectively understood as such by the children that grew up watching that movie. Currently, Ethan continues his making practice while also working as a Photo Editor and Retoucher at Opening Ceremony. Here he brings his ability to tap into the collective humor in popular imagery as it relates to fashion. Ethan and I sat down in the OC offices and chatted about making—how it involves play and what gets him excited about it.
How would you describe the work you create?
I think my work results from playful combinations of associations I have—all to distill collective underlying desires. Without collectives there are no tropes. My interest in tropes comes from that and I often find myself solidifying trope-like gestures or moments into object form, to re-examine and preserve them.
Tell me about the types of imagery you are engaged in.
You know in a movie when two characters start off as friends with underlying romantic tension between them, which builds until the moment before they kiss? But then, before they do, they are interrupted by another character in the movie. This interrupted kiss, like a lot of tropes, shows some sort of desire, to possibly preserve a fantasy. I am interested in imagery that is banal, but once represented in another form, captivates a sense of new-ness or wonder. Almost like seeing it the first time.
What gets you excited about making objects?
I think, perhaps, the process of uncovering. A lot of the time I will have an inkling to make something and the idea starts off so loose, but then once I start collecting things and putting those together, it seems like I knew the whole time.
I enjoy how in making an object you have the option to combine associations. You can make solid what is usually loose, airy, liquidy, et cetera. When making an object the property of a thing can be turned on its head.
I often assume you have a dialogue with yourself when you're making work, one where you play. Would you describe your process of making artwork playful?
Play itself is expansive and hard to pin down. I like to think of playing as a type of making. There is the kind of play that relies on imagination, or there is play that is purely physical. Games, for example, rely on rigid parameters (sometimes beautiful, like a perfectly manicured baseball field). My art making is more ore less a reflection of the play I see in other places.
If you were a child again what kind of kid would you be?
I like to think about what it would be like to have the body of a child, or even an 8th grader, but the same brain that I have now. I would be creepy and smart relative to my younger self. I like to think I would stand up to people that I was scared of at the time.
Ive been thinking a lot about ‘Kid logic’, or the ways that kids often come to skewed conclusions about how the world works. I used to think that if I ripped up my gum into a bunch of pieces before eating it, I would have more to chew in the end. Another example is not understanding perception, like seeing something far away and thinking it is actually small.
Images courtesy of ETHAN SKAATES
interview ALEX ASSIL
More to read