Several focal points define the work of New York-based artist Eric Cahan. Among them: light, specifically the light generated by the sun at sunrise and sunset, science, nature, and the ephemeral quality of memories. These considerations are in play when, equipment in tow, Cahan heads outside at a carefully chosen hour of morning or evening to begin creating one of his flawless, ethereal works of art.
Cahan himself made most of the work for his current project, Sky Series, during his extensive travels. Each photograph and sculpture is titled with the time and location of its conception. In this way, Cahan catalogues his visual journal. “ During my travels, I discover what I want to document. My works are titled to remind me of the experience, both visually and spiritually.” Cahan’s viewers see in his work his unique interpretation of a specific time and place.
Understanding what inspires Cahan and learning more about the elaborate technical process necessary to create his pieces leads to awed appreciation of his art. When asked how much post-production goes into creating the final piece Cahan laments, a lot of people ask me if this is all done in Photoshop. In fact, very little Photoshop is used. I will only tone photos to match the paper type and, in some cases, add a bit of color curves. The actual process is done with colored resin filters I make myself and hold in front of the lens before I shoot a picture. When a color filter is used against a blue sky, it always alters the color of the sky. I know the colors I am trying to conjure and choose the filter accordingly. Many factors affect the capturing and manipulating of light and shadow, which is why Cahan works at sunrise and sunset and also, invariably, at the water’s edge: “My mission is to capture light. Light is the true subject of this series: its constant mystery, the way it shifts and colors everything around it in nature.”
Also influencing Cahan’s thinking is the Impressionists’ depiction of natural light and its ever-changing qualities, and the artist’s study of Color Theory – the science of how colors, tones, and hues combine to create widely varied determinable results. Cahan is particularly compelled to pursue the magical light of a sunrise or sunset. He finds that sunrises usually have a marine layer, but the sky has fewer clouds. If he waits for just the right moment, he can capture the clear glow before the sun rises. The color temperature changes from cool to warm in the morning. At sunset, colors are more saturated; he tends to focus on shadows because he’s not shooting directly into the sun.
Cahan’s polyester resin sculptures, made from the same surface material as surfboards and sailboards, are in their own way three-dimensional interpretations of his photographs. Similarly meant to capture and manipulate light, they conjure the sensation of looking into the sky or the ocean. The way light behaves and interacts with the material of Cahan’s sculptures depends entirely on the sculpture’s environment. If outdoors, earth and sky are visible through and filtered by the sculpture’s material. If indoors, the resin will predominately reflect the light around it, acting much like a prism.
“My work is meant to capture a moment in nature, asking and empowering the viewer to be fully present, involved, and uplifted. I want the viewer to be drawn in, and be completely absorbed by, rather than separate from, that fleeting moment in time.”