Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday ProFiles: EGR

In spite of braving subzero temperatures and working with truculent teens, I'm determined to have a good birthday today. While people will probably still confuse me for a student even though I'm 23, I take comfort in knowing that I've got a couple more great interviews sitting on my desktop. Today's ProFile features Canadian artists EGR.

Most people recall preschool days filled with fingerpaint and macaroni necklaces as their first exposure to art. Toronto artist EGR's first creative memories are a mixture of casts and Crayolas. A hip surgery in early childhood left her with a long recovery and lots of spare time. Her resourceful mother bought her a comfortable chair and a box of crayons, so EGR spent her days drawing and watching Sesame Street. Fortunately, her kiddie psyche didn't form any negative associations between art and leg pain. The joy she experienced with that first box of crayons later led her to an illustration course at Sheridan College. 

As she studied, EGR noticed the artistic activity out in the streets. Graffiti artists impressed her with the accessibility of their work. She explains, "At the time, I was so engrossed in trying new mediums and experimenting with new techniques. I was breaking down boundaries in my advertising class with the use of graffiti in my projects." Finding inspiration in her formal training and the streets, her influenced ranged from Van Gogh 
and Klimt to Fafi and Gary Basemen. While many crews asked her to join them, she chose to fly solo. Her acro-name (pronounced "eager") is a play on her initials; friends and neighbors know her as Erica Gosich Rose. The name also stands for her unwavering enthusiasm for art. The suburbs around Burlington, Ontario, all bear her mark.

Getting up wasn't always easy for EGR. In the beginning, she admits, "It was definitely nerve-wracking at first to step up to the wall. To this day, I still get jitters or butterflies." Climbing unstable recycling bins or shaky scaffolding added to the danger of getting caught. Also, elbowing her way into the male-dominated arena wasn't easy. "As a woman," she says, "I found it difficult to be taken seriously from the start. To be confident and try to paint a wall is pretty tricky, especially in the midst of the boys' club scene." As she grew up, she harnessed that swagger and asserted her place on the scene. Fortunately, EGR has painted with trustworthy people and has yet to have an encounter with the law, a feat she attributes to being a "pretty fast runner." In times of trouble, she draws on strength rooted in a childhood tragedy. "My youngest sister passed away from SIDS," she recalls, "and in learning to cope, I embraced prayer. Conscious peaceful prayer is power and I remember that when I paint."

All of EGR's ladies are both strong and beautiful. Three sisters surface from a murky river only to be greeted by factory exhaust and a lonely tree. Radio Raheem's female counterpart pumps out the jams from her boom box as her braids flap in the breeze.  
The Queen of Spades brandishes her piece as she glares into the distance. Filled with skateboarders, rollerskating honeys, and old men out for a stroll, her "Summertime in the City" mural warms up even the coldest winter day. Equal parts sexy and bold, these female figures command a strong presence on the streets.
EGR feels personally responsible for the messages in her work. Although her characters are often female, her pieces convey much more than "girl power". She hopes her pieces don't get oversimplified. "I have had fears about putting my work out there," she explains. "Some of the more submissive female characters are either nude or vulnerable in appearance. These characters reflect the vulnerability that I feel or possess at times and can be mistaken for other things. There is a fine line in this power struggle." EGR addresses defying gender roles and the deteriorating natural landscape but wants to leave viewers with a feeling of hope. Ultimately, she hopes the accessibility of the streets will enable people to see her work and react.

In addition to her art school education, the streets have imparted some valuable life lessons on EGR. Instead of agonizing over a piece, street art taught her to let it go and to remain content with the final product. She continues, "I've learned to paint quick and abandon my work, which I have applied to the fast pace of illustration but is much unlike the speed of most fine art." Getting up allowed her to travel across North America and to collaborate with other artists. Out of all the places she's been, she asserts, "Toronto is definitely my favourite city because of all things, it's home."
Today, EGR lives and works in Toronto as her own representative and agent. When she's not piecing, she dabbles in music, writing, and fashion. Her latest project? Getting married. She declares, "I'm enjoying being engaged to an awesome fella who supports my goals and dreams; he is my backbone. We have several installation projects that we are planning together." While EGR's commitment to her work is constant, won't the name change conflict with her initial-based moniker? She replies, "I predict I might have another name change. Like my art, my name is ever-evolving."

Catch EGR's work on display in Housepaint: Phase 2-Shelter at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park, Toronto). For more info, see

All photos courtesy of EGR at


  1. Wow nice art, thanks for share, this people who amde grafity are real artist, how many people can paint walls like that? not to many I guess.

  2. Wonderful kind of art, the streets look so alive with some graffiti , I know that some people can say that it is smashing or vandalism !! but in my opinion it is good!