While he never took art classes as a kid, Eric Pelka drew inspiration from the creative world. As a boy, he saw a painting by French artist Henri Matisse, known for his use of color.

“It fascinated me at that age,” Pelka said. “Someone took the time out and energy to create this …. something that was so intense. … It stayed with me.”

Pelka shared stories about his life as well as his work processes during a Jan. 28 segment of Carberry Conversations. He was the first artist of the spring semester to join the series, which will continue throughout the semester. 

Carberry Conversations is a series of virtual talks throughout the academic year between me and several past exhibiting artists whose work has been on view at the Amy H. Carberry Fine Arts Gallery since 2013 and STCC’s very own art faculty.

Conceived in response to the ongoing pandemic, these conversations function as a space to connect working artists and photographers to STCC and the Greater Springfield community covering a wide variety of topics including, origin stories, the impact of current events on the artistic process, and the function of art and photography during times of crisis.

During the conversation on Jan. 28, Pelka touched on his influences, which include the scenery wherever he happens to be living.

Drawing inspiration from the environment

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Pelka moved to New York City as a young adult, where he spent 25 years creating artwork. In 2016 he made a move to Western Massachusetts, drawn by the beauty of the region’s land and culture, which continue to inspire his newer paintings.

“Springfield was super inspiring as an urban environment,” said Pelka, who now lives in Salem, Mass.

“There are so many things I miss about Western Mass. I was so used to seeing Mount Tom  every day. But I guess it’s a trade. I get to see the ocean right here in front of me. They’re both majestic”

In the fall of 2019, while still living in Western Mass., Pelka brought his art to the Carberry Gallery at STCC. His elaborate installation titled “Eric Pelka: 90s NYC to Rural Western Massachusetts” featured dozens of paintings and drawings in an elaborate installation.

Today, like all of us, Pelka is navigating through the pandemic. He stopped socializing in the way he used to.

“Things felt like they had to be rewired,” he said. “I took a break from social media, so that was a big difference. And not having the kind of art experiences with others that I was looking forward to. … There weren’t certain kinds of connection social events that you would do. The biggest impact for me personally was going off of Instagram, but also how I communicated with other people.”

Asked what advice he would give to his younger self, Pelka said, “maybe listen a little bit more.”

His advice could apply to STCC students – or anyone – who wants to stay engaged.

To view Eric Pelka’s artwork, visit his website, ericpelka.com.

Next up for Carberry Conversations

“Carberry Conversations” continues on Feb. 7 with guest Kiayani Douglas, a visual artist and educator whose work was on display in February 2020. To find out more information and to register for the Zoom event, visit stcc.io/carberry.