With clean lines, smooth joints and elegant contours, Eric David Laxman’s high-octane sculptures take their design cues from classicism, yet are at once unique and modern.
“Whether it’s Roman, Greek or Egyptian art, there’s something so riveting about that work and it speaks through so many years of time. …There’s something archetypal about what comes through,” Laxman says about the great civilizations from which the ancient tradition of sculpting first emerged.
Today, the art form continues to captivate the eye.
“I’ve always been inspired by that and I’ve always felt like it’s been such an incredible calling.”
With that calling, though, comes the need for the artist to tap into the zeitgeist and affirm that through his art, whether figurative or abstract.
The Valley Cottage resident’s diverse body of work includes a wide range of pieces – wall sculpture, entry-landing sculpture, large public commissions, custom furniture and decorative metal. He chooses to work with nonferrous metals, which include stainless steel, bronze and aluminum.
“My signature work is a combination of metal and stone and integrating them together,” he says.
There have been numerous commissions that have graced the homes and gardens of Hudson Valley and Connecticut estates, as well as pieces in the collections of some company headquarters and select American art galleries. In 2007, Greenwich Hospital commissioned a figurative cast bronze sculpture of mother and child for its maternity-visiting lounge. Recently, the artist’s worked appeared on the CBS cop series “Blue Bloods” and the Netflix comedy-drama “Orange Is the New Black.”
Rather than having a fixed concept and executing it, Laxman says it’s the process of working that informs the art.
“I like the idea of having an idea and having something that I’m trying to express and I may not even be completely aware of what I’m trying to express, but in the process of working and in putting things together, things emerge and if you’re open to what’s happening, it develops its own life and its own raison d’etre.”
He explains, “You’re revealing something at each stage of the process, uncovering something instead of just working to complete the thing.”
In the art world today, it’s very common for an artist to make a maquette and hand it over to a big fabricator so he can create a large-scale version of the model. There are plenty of technical challenges involved in that translation, Laxman says, but the primary reason he doesn’t like to work this way is because it ceases to be the artist’s journey in the process of making the object.
“What’s interesting about my work is I’m doing a real range of things. I’m doing my own work, which has become more experimental. I like to take more risk, because in the commissions and furniture – functional things – you have a script.”
With the commissioned work comes the inevitability of having to conform to a predetermined plan, so that’s why he says his own work provides an antidote where he can be more open-ended and free to be in the moment and make spontaneous choices.
“True art is always some kind of an experiment, ” says the Tufts University graduate, who earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and planned to be doctor until he took a stone-carving class his junior year and traveled to Vermont that summer with his teacher for a three-week trip visiting quarries and stone carvers.
As he explains, “You have some kind of thesis you are exploring and you delve into it. And there’s usually some question in your mind, something that you want to express, and how you’re going to achieve that and what you’re going to put together – the alchemy of transforming the materials into something that resembles the original materials but becomes something else.”
His experience studying chemistry and physics has given him a greater appreciation, if not a greater knowledge, of those materials.
“That’s where the science comes in. Any time I’m making something, you know, I’m bending a piece of steel to make it fit something. I have to manipulate it to do something I want it to do. I have to understand what the materials can do. I use all my experience with different technology, figure out how to go from A to Z to create something. And each step of the way you have these choices to make and problems to solve.”
Laxman doesn’t make a distinction between his own art and the functional art, like the superlatively crafted hand railings he produces for clients.
“My art informs the commercial work and the commercial work informs my art and it’s all fodder for the creative process. I don’t distinguish the source.
“The idea that you can be an artist and make your living entirely from the process of being creative is a very unrealistic goal, because art isn’t meant to be just a commodity. It’s a spiritual calling, I think.”
The artist doesn’t want all the pressure of his livelihood to depend on the creative process because, he says, “It kills your creativity when you’re worried about paying your rent and you’re going to go to the studio and create a piece of art? You can’t. There’s no way to squeeze art into a business model. The actual act of making art is completely separate from the transaction of putting it out there, selling it, making a living.”
But Laxman isn’t exactly choosing between being a “suit” or a “creative.” His yin-yang approach to business and art strikes the right balance.
“I found a way to be interested and curious and treat that (commercial art) as much as part of my art as anything else.”
He acknowledges, however, “When I first started working as an artist, and I was a student, the idea of doing railings was like, ‘Forget it, I’m an artist. I’m not doing railings.’ But over a period of time and having different experiences, people starting asking, ‘Can you make a table for me?’ Then I went to the International (Contemporary) Furniture show at the Javits Center and I saw what artisan furniture makers were making and the light bulb went off.”
The artist’s work will be featured in the upcoming show “Unusual Art” at The Belskie Museum of Art & Science, 280 High St., Closter, N.J., from Jan. 5-26, with an artist’s reception 1-5 p.m. Jan. 5. For more information, visit ericdavidlaxman.com.