Artist Eben Lee Hall Prefers Wide Open Spaces.
Welcome to Space Invaded, a new recurring feature in which we peer into the desirable workspaces of various Dallas creatives and try keep our envy to a minimum.
At its core, art has always been about the freedom of expression, regardless of the mediums used or the spaces the works are created in. But as time marches forward, alterations have been forced upon the concept and the freedom it represents, somewhat clouding the idea.
But Eben Lee Hall — a painter, a sculptor and a man unafraid of getting his hands dirty — is still fighting the good fight. He has a somewhat romanticized, old-school notion of the freedom of artistic expression. And his workspace is a tribute to such.
In an old warehouse forgotten by time in The Cedars, where his notable neighbors include a newly opened coffee roasting studio, Hall has the freedom to express his art in any way he sees fit — while in some of the most intimate of circumstances. His studio space has no central air and only natural lighting. Its sole ventilation is provided by an abundance of glass windows and a single fan in the main work area.
Meanwhile, aged brick facades, creaky wooden floors and miscellaneous dust-covered storage items serve as reminders of past occupants, helping to contribute to the warehouse's beautifully ominous vibe, which is perfect for transporting an artist back to the days where there were no hindrances or distractions to artistic expression and the ability to create takes a front seat.
Here, with the freedom to do pretty much anything he wants, Hall experiments with a variety of mediums — from metals and coffee grounds to a 1977 Kawasaki KZ900 named La Srorcha and bodily excretions — and he does so without the limitations of the average workspace.
Just last week, we caught up with Hall to see just how his abandoned warehouse provides him with inspiration for his art.
First things first: Where can people see your art? Where is it exhibited?
I currently have my work displayed at Cory Pope & Associates in the Dallas Design Center.
I know you employ a variety of mediums in your are. What are some of your favorites?
As an artist, I don't want to be confined to using one medium, so I work with many different materials — both while painting and sculpting. I love working with my metal paint and the corrosives and patinas that I use. The effects can be very unexpected and beautiful. I also do quite a bit of welding and I have also been doing some casting of bronze. The welding is great; you can start with a flat sheet of steel, and it can become a three-dimensional piece so different from the beginning material. In bronze casting, we use a lost wax technique, so we can create pieces using materials that will burn out or melt from the mold. Then we pour in the liquid bronze and amazing pieces are born.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on several paintings and sculptural pieces that I'm using the metal paint on, experimenting with materials and effects. I'm about to start my first semester of grad school at the University of North Texas, so I'll immediately start welding again and working on designs for some cast bronze pieces. I'm interested in learning to operate the CNC machine so that I can take some of my furniture designs and bring them to life. I want to combine materials such as plaster, steel and glass to create unique pieces that are both functional and beautiful.
Who are your biggest inspirations as an artists?
One of my biggest influences is Jackson Pollock. His technique of action painting — pouring, dripping and splattering — can produce wonderful and unique effects. It's almost out of my control at times. I use his same technique of painting with the canvases laying flat on the ground. Another influence is an artist currently working today named Jordan Eagles. Mr. Eagles paints using animal blood, and his work has a somewhat random feel to it. I don't believe he can totally control the medium, and that leads to beautiful results. Many of his works are done on acrylic panels and lit from behind. The finished pieces are fantastic.
What do you like about your workspace?
The workspace is open and well-lit during the day. The natural lighting is so beautiful, and you can actually get a great breeze through the space. It doesn't feel confined, and the openness seems to allow my mind to wander and travel. I don't feel boxed in or confined while I work.
Do you feel that the openness and industrial atmosphere of your space helps to influence your art through the freedom it provides?
Yes, definitely. I love the colors and textures of the brick and the old rusted metal fixtures. They inspire me to try and create something that looks like Mother Nature had an influence on it. The openness of the space also allows me to create large works where I can stand back and observe the work from different angles and distances. It helps to understand the perspective.
What are your plans as an artist for when you finish graduate school?
I'm working towards my Masters of Sculpture, as well as a Graduate Academic Certificate in Art Museum Education. So, ideally, I'd want to have my own studio to work on my projects and designs, and be involved with one of the great museums in the area to teach and be around beautiful art every day.
Can you explain how this area is good for the cultivation of artists?
Many times, in many cities, the artists of an area will go to a somewhat run-down or forgotten area of town to pursue their arts endeavors. I guess it's that fact that no one wants to be in the “seedy” or “rough” part of town, and most artists don't mind. That's where we can find large, open spaces to work in and be left alone to create. The Cedars is still a somewhat industrial area: [There are] lots of different warehouse spaces, large open buildings and such. [It's] perfect for painters, sculptors, ceramic artists — places where we can make a mess, make some noise and make some art. The Cedars is just south of Downtown, so it's not really far from anything — but far enough away that the general public isn't bothered by our activities. Artists are notorious for staying up late, playing loud music and making a mess; it's in our blood and not an activity that can really be pulled off in a residential neighborhood. The Cedars is the perfect artist haven in Dallas; many of us have been in the area for years and we have no plans of ever leaving. It suits our purposes and we have a strong community. We watch out and take care of each other. I believe it's the best neighborhood in Dallas.
All photos by Kathy Tran.