Collaborative Cartoonish Cooperation

When he graduates from SUNY New Paltz, printmaker Douglas C.  Eberhardt will be a master of collaboration.

For part of his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) thesis, Eberhardt decided to make more than 100 prints of a self-portrait inside a robotic-looking silhouette, with another blank figure beside his.

Calling it the “Lets Hang Out Kit,” he sent them to his artist friends, along with everyone in the SUNY New Paltz printmaking program, and asked them to fill in their own self-portraits any way they liked.

“People did interpretations of themselves,” Eberhardt said. “This is sort of a way of bringing friends and community into my work because my work can be really personal. A lot of it is pretty accessible, cartoony, but bringing other people into it makes it interesting to me. Kind of opens up a whole new realm.”

During his undergraduate career at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, Eberhardt became inspired by the older technique of the exquisite corpse — where different artists draw separate parts of a body and combine them together, allowing the possibility to interchange the parts.

With this idea in mind, Eberhardt will take the filled-in 2-D prints and fold them into 3-D figures. The figures will stand in front of a diorama of an environment Eberhardt painted, showcasing the major places in his life: the Buffalo house he grew up in, the house he lived in as an undergraduate and the cityscapes of New York City, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

“I wanted it to be as noisy as possible,” Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt’s work is colorful, bursting with energy, exuding the grotesque and eerie shapes of the face and body. In one particular self-portrait that will be on display at his thesis show, Eberhardt’s print shows him sleeping on a couch with an explosion of wild images pouring out of his head in different directions.

“It’s a really abstracted self-portrait that was trying to explain all of the ideas coming out of my head,” Eberhardt said. “It’s as if my head just blew up on a bunch of paper. That is what I was trying to go for.”

Eberhardt said his work is a “mix of printmaking and illustration.” Often describing his pieces as “cartoony” and even “silly,” Eberhardt said his style of drawing comes from a lot of places, including touches of Ed Roth and Ralph Steadman and a lot of cartoon-watching.

“I’m really influenced by cartoonists like Art Crumb. He straddles the line between high art and low cartoon art,” Eberhardt said. “I really enjoy pretty much anything and everything that I deem is good. That can be anything from older ‘90s cartoons like ‘Ren & Stimpy,’ and then there’s really good new cartoons out now, like ‘Adventure Time.’”

Eberhardt’s very personal work is also inspired by the people around him. Another print in his thesis, “Porch Life,” represents his old porch from his house in Pennsylvania. A self-portrait of Eberhardt sits comfortably while a swarm of monstrous and bizarre-looking creatures surround him.

“That was a print about how embracing a party or rock ‘n roll lifestyle is not only a good thing, but how it changes your perspective, and changes the way people interact with each other,” Eberhardt said. “I don’t mean to show them [friends] in a super negative way and me in a glorifying way, being the only non-monstrous abstracted figure. I wanted to show the interactions people make and the way my perception may be to everybody else. It’s a way of understanding, an example of perceiving the world.”

Eberhardt said he also enjoys lithography and has had his work on display at the Unison Arts in Water Street Market, Celebration of the Arts, McKenna Theatre and Haggerty Administration Building. While a graduate student at SUNY New Paltz, he also taught an Introduction to Printmaking class, and would be interested in returning to New Paltz to teach professionally.

After he graduates, Eberhardt will be interning at a farm outside of Poughkeepsie, called The Wassaic Project. Yet on a larger scale, Eberhardt said he would love to start a collective in Pittsburgh where a group of artists can pool their resources together for projects like large printmaking installations.

“I’m really interested in making fun objects, it’s sort of eye-candy,” Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt’s MFA thesis show, “Portraits, Parodies & Perspectives,” will be on display in The Dorsky, May 11 to 15.