If you purchased a new household appliance during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, local artist Linda Erzinger may have used the package’s shipping straps to create one of her works of art. By collecting common materials that would otherwise find their way to the landfill, Linda creates pieces that are not only visually stunning, but that also invite viewers to consider the toll our consumerism takes on the planet.
“The idea to use plastic shipping wrap came to me as a tumbleweed outside the studio one day,” Linda says. “It was blowing down the alley and the idea rather literally knocked into me.” With the seed of a plan in mind, Linda called around to local stores and connected with a man at Bargain Supply who saved the straps for her instead of throwing them out. “It was interesting to be part of that flow of consumerism. Purchases of home appliances skyrocketed during COVID. Then, when the supply chain crashed, I couldn’t get any more,” Linda continues. Today, a magnificent piece created from those discarded plastic straps hangs in the main room of the Art Sanctuary on Shelby Street in Louisville. Other recycled items that have found new life in Linda’s hands include old trophies, bubble wrap, and styrofoam–just to name a few.
Before working full time as an artist, Linda was an art therapist. She is also an environmentalist, a community activist, and a strong advocate for women. Each of these combines to bring Linda the passion to create work that explores the historical and present-day experience of life as a woman. Her motivation may come from reading the news, talking with other artists in the shared space of the Art Sanctuary, or from her own daily experiences. In recent years, she began to reflect upon the medical system in our society, not only due to the pandemic but because of her own aging process, particularly as she entered menopause.
“In the winter of 2019, I was experiencing the hormonal shift into menopause. I wasn’t sleeping; my emotions were all over the place. One night, while talking to a friend, I said, ‘my hormones are like gnomes running around in the yard. They’re sneaking around, doing things I don’t understand,’” Linda describes. With those words, the essence of a new passion project was born.
Soon, Linda was creating her first female gnome out of plaster she had in her studio. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I took some advice from friends and prepared my first mold. She came out with many imperfections, and I was hating on her,” Linda says. “I wanted to hide those imperfections, much as I try to do in myself. Our inner critics can be brutal. I had been trying for greater acceptance of my body; I wanted to do the same for her. If I erase her imperfections, I’m erasing part of her story. I painted those spots gold in recognition that our imperfections are grand. In my daily life, I’m trying to look again–to let it be.”
The gnome project, named somewhat controversially, the Whore Gnome Project (a play on the word hormone) is aimed at connecting women across the country and the world. Linda is creating 4” and 10” gnomes in an array of colors. Each gnome has a #whoregnomeproject tag on the bottom of the statue. Women who receive a gnome are encouraged to write a message detailing a resource that has helped them to improve some aspect of their lives. Linda is tracking and categorizing those responses with the hope of creating a single site where women may be able to go for assistance. “I know the name of the project is controversial, but the timing feels right. I see it as an expression of the different aspects of womanhood in America. As the gnomes get around and women respond to the hashtag, it just multiplies our voices,” Linda says. “It is only as we work in community, supporting one another, that we rise.”
She Loves Her…
“I love my grandmother’s teapot. It’s well loved and kind of beat up, and every time I use it, I think of her. It tells her story. And it is a part of the story of who she was.”
By Megan S Willman | Photos by Erika Doll