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Visual Arts

Anything Is Possible For Interdisciplinary Artist Alicia Eggert

The Dallas-based artist and UNT professor plays with the constructs of time and language in her striking installations.
By Elaine Raffel |

For interdisciplinary artist Alicia Eggert, time is literally of the essence. Along with language, it’s the focal point of her work. “While both are invisible, they’re powerful in the way they shape our reality. Time is something we all have in common. It’s finite. We all live and die. The intangible becomes tangible,” she says.

What makes the present an especially significant time for Eggert is that her neon installation “All That is Possible is Real” was selected by curator Virginia Shore to be part of the permanent collection at the recently-opened HALL Arts Hotel. Flashing between two statements—“All that is real is possible” and “All that is possible is real”—the sign’s illuminating text encourages viewers to not just think about the way the world is (reality), but about the way it could be (possibility).

“The offer came out of the blue,” Eggert says. “It’s such an incredible honor to be hanging with other artists I’ve respected for so long. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from it.”

Image courtesy of Alicia Eggert.

Relatively new to the Metroplex, Eggert moved to Denton from Brunswick, Maine in 2015 to accept a position as Assistant Professor of Studio Art and Sculpture at the University of North Texas. “Along with great facilities at UNT, the proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth area is amazing,” she says. “The arts community has been incredibly supportive and inspiring.” Locally, her work is featured at the Liliana Bloch Gallery. Previous academic stints include Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and Alfred University in upstate New York; her CV also sports an impressive list of national and international solo, two-person, and group exhibitions.

Eggert attributes her affinity for working collaboratively to her background in architecture and interior design. She draws the analogy to contractors on a build project. “I’m comfortable working that way, Once I have an idea, I brainstorm on what materials will give it proper manifestation. If I can’t realize it myself, I’ll bring on another artist to help communicate what I’m hoping to do.” Her diverse body of work speaks volumes. Mediums include neon, inflatable nylon fabric, motors and sensors, aluminum signage, laser engraved light bulbs, yarn, clocks—even belly button lint. “I want my work to be accessible on the surface layer, but also go deeper; the more you think about it, the more it reveals itself,” she says.

Among her favorite projects: “You are (on) an island,” which Eggert credits for kick-starting her series of flashing neon sculptures. (The message is animated by the word “on” flashing on and off at regular intervals, transforming an obvious statement into a reflective and philosophical inquiry.) Although originally created in 2011 for the Sacred and Profane art festival on Peaks Island, Maine, the piece has traveled to the United Kingdom (as a mobile billboard), and Washington, D.C.

“It’s been perceived as everything from an ideological island to a political island, depending on the context in which it’s seen,” she explains.

Paramount to all of Eggert’s work is the creative and insightful use of text, from the seemingly simple “AHA” (when divided in half, it creates two different words—AH and HA—illustrating the relationship between humor and enlightenment) to “Between Now and Then” (two ideas/objects that cannot physically exist at the same time). “I’ve been exploring a lot of the same ideas since I started 15 years ago,” she says. “The farther out in space we look, the farther back in time we see. In my lifetime, I’ll only experience a small portion of the universe; I just want to discover my role in it.”

Courtesy of Alicia Eggert.

Favorite place to travel: Porto, Portugal. I spent four months living and working there leading up to a solo exhibition.

Music preferences: Anything that doesn’t require thinking—soul, indie rock, R & B from the 70s and 80s.

Where you find inspiration: Looking at as much art as possible. My students also inspire me. Teaching is definitely reciprocal.

I’m proud of: Being named a TED fellow. It’s mind-blowing. The program encourages collaboration and offered me the opportunity to participate in cool projects I couldn’t do otherwise.

Balancing motherhood and a career: Being a single mom with a 5-year-old changes time in so many ways, from how much you have to the way you utilize it. It’s made me more organized and productive.

If you weren’t an artist, you’d be: An engineer. And I almost became a pilot. Or maybe a skywriter—I did research and there’s only five people that can do it.

Three qualities that got you where you are today: Optimism. Perfectionism. Valuing relationships.

What you love most about your career: Imagining things that don’t exist—then making them exist.

Guilty pleasure:  Zombie shows that get me out of my head.

Bucket list: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I’ve got a trip planned for next year. My goal is to put a sign on the top—”You are (climbing) a mountain.”

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