Checking in with Aaron Eichorst

What were you doing when we called?
I am looking through images for this Charlottesville City schools website, compiling new pictures to go up on the site. I teach art to everyone at Clark Elementary and half the population at Greenbrier. This is my ninth year teaching.

Visual artist Aaron Eichorst has three pieces showing in the Gleason building through July. Visit his website at

What are you working on right now?
I am continuing to work on a series of paintings that are from an ancient kind of art form that the Romans developed. They painted their walls as grotesques, which were decorative styles with symmetrical designs. Each of mine have an architectural feature, and inside of that is a hand-painted portrait of someone I know staring out at the viewer. I had a show at McGuffey with these pieces that I’ve been working on for about two years and I thought I just had a few more in me. Recently, though, I took a trip to Paris thinking I would be really inspired to go in another direction, but as it turns out I have a few more of them to do.
What is your first artistic memory from childhood?
My mother painted, and she had a table set up in the room that she made her studio. My paternal grandmother also painted, and I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons with her. She would show me techniques that she was working on and give me the material that allowed me to do my own paintings along with her.
Tell us about a work of art that you wish was in your private collection.
There are so many. I love Cynthia Burke’s snowy owl that she’s been working on recently. A really beautiful oil painting. The other one I saw a couple months ago. It’s by an Italian painter named Giuseppe Arcimboldo. He painted representations of the elements for an emperor. My favorite is water, a portrait of a man made of sea creatures.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
I tend to like the one that I did last. In this case, it’s called “Sanctuary” and it features a young girl named Lilly peering out of a classical facade with four Doric columns. She’s looking through a doorway and there are some fuchsia caterpillars crawling around the outside, and two half circles painted red, one above her and above below. I‘d been working really diligently trying to get the skin right, and so there’s layer upon layer of different washes and glazes on her face. I love the way she looks—lifelike.
Do you have any superstitions about your art?
No. I’m pretty pragmatic about it. I work, and work hard. I try things and sometimes they don’t work out but I keep working at them.
Tell us about a recent concert, exhibit or show that has inspired you.
I was recently in Paris and went to see Giverny, Monet’s garden and home. The weather was beautiful—it was 70 degrees and sunny and all of the tulips were in bloom. It was the first week in April and it was gorgeous. I’m also a gardener, so I found a lot of inspiration looking at that garden.
Who is your favorite artist outside your medium?
I really appreciate Sally Mann’s photographs. There was a really beautiful exhibit of hers last summer at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Initially she gained popularity with photographs of the daily life of her family, anything that would happen to her children and her husband, from accidents to family parties. Eventually, she was inspired by mortality, and the idea of what gets left behind, and she did these incredible photographs of bodies that were decomposing in a forensic setting. She was allowed to go and photograph these decomposing corpses, trying to understand what was happening to them. She used this very old style of photography that gave her these little accidents and imperfections. It gives her pictures this sort of this mysterious beauty.
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
What I’m really interested in doing is taking the grotesque and animating it. Making a projection, so that the figures inside would move slightly or maybe just blink. Just subtle movements, that’s what I would do.