AN INTERVIEW WITH BRADLEY EHRSAM:
THE 22 MAGAZINE: First off, tell me a little about how you ended up in New Jersey and how you got started making this type of art?
BRADLEY EHRSAM: We ended up in New Jersey by chance. I moved to New York in December 2010 when my wife and I became engaged and looked at many different locations all over NYC and NJ to establish my studio and welding shop. I was up late one night looking online at studios and came across the new space and vision for Mana Contemporary. After my first visit I knew that it was the right place. As for how I started making this type of art, I went to school for business with a soccer scholarship. In my sophomore year I took a woodworking class and added fine arts to my degree. After graduating, I then went to motorcycle mechanics school. That was all it took and my career and passion for art and design and creating sculpture and functional art began.
THE 22: You've got sort of two very distinct projects I noticed. One involves your great eye for design with the furniture and bicycle pieces. The others are really delicate, abstract Sharpie pieces. Can you talk about both of these series and the role they play for you artistically?
BE: I was running a fabrication shop doing everything from sanding hardwood floors and sheet rocking to architectural metal pieces. I then started small run furniture lines, some incorporating motorcycle parts (motorcycles being another passion of mine) into the furniture and my artwork. I built a biker lounge that traveled with Harley Davidson across the country. I would do that by day and then get home at night still feeling and wanting to be creative so I pulled out my high school art supplies and started my paintings. The tricycles started as a welcome to the family for my brother-in-law and are inspired by some part of my life experiences. The first 30 paintings you saw told the story of my life in Minneapolis. I love both and the tranquility they give to me.
THE 22: Your work is incredibly playful and fun, where do you get your ideas?
BE: My ideas come from my childhood upbringing, love of life, nature and, of course, motorcycles. I get my ideas from everything I see and experience. The tricycles are innocent and playful and a way to express thoughts and feelings about what I see happening in the world around me and my own personal life. I am really inspired and enjoy when people come up and tell me how a certain trike reminds them of a great memory in their life, first car, plowing a field, sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, being a race car driver, first date…
THE 22: Many of your Sharpie pieces look like wood grain or vegetation. What inspires these pieces?
BE: They are inspired by what I want to convey in the piece and also inspired by the piece itself and the unique characteristics and flaws that wood has. There are always aspects of the wood that I am working on that I want to leave as is and create around it.
THE 22: Do you find it ironic to draw wood grain on wood?
BE: I don't. The wood grain is inspirational. Sometimes bleached out and re-added. Sometimes I work directly with it. The message that I want to convey dictates how I use the piece of wood that I am working on.
THE 22: I was really impressed by the gloss coating you got and how beautiful the Sharpie colors (known for fading) were preserved. Can you tell the story of how you got that perfect gloss coating?
BE: A friend of mine sprayed the pieces and I worked directly with Golden Paint. We actually spoke with an engineer who develops the products on a conference call and told him exactly what medium I was using and he told us the exact product to use to preserve.