More than a decade ago, as most of the Balkan Peninsula was still smoldering from a fierce war, Chicago was one of the first cities in the United States to begin receiving a growing stream of weary refugees from the region. In 1997, I met a Bosnian family and began an odyssey that continues to this day.
As an artist, I truly did not know how to even begin the process of absorbing the overwhelming onslaught of emotions my contact with the Bosnian community would open. The intensity of watching a family that lost everything in the war find stability and peace, but not without great struggles. The responsibility I felt for them as I became their American liaison, and in return, they became my guide to the Bosnian culture and country. I quickly realized glass alone was not sufficient to express these experiences, so I began exploring metal, wood and other materials with the substance and textures that seemed to echo what I was feeling and seeing.
Literally, 'Grana Mali' translates to 'small branch'. I can not share the whole 'tree' of my experiences in either a few paragraphs, or even one of my sculptures, but perhaps these 'branches' can be an invitation for others to look over my shoulder as I continue the journey.
Eric Bladholm's work was featured in our "For the Office" exhibit as well as our SOFA Chicago show.