AIR Cycle 10 Artist Spotlight: Erin Palumbo
By Christine Sloan Stoddard
Erin Palumbo, a 2018 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), came to
the Textile Arts Center after her mother’s urging. Donna had taken dyeing classes at
TAC and thought the Artists in Residency program might be a good fit for her. Mom
turned out to be right.
“AIR definitely helped me realize that there’s no one way to have [an artistic] practice.
Everybody has their own way that they do things, their own way that their mind
formulates their ideas,” says Erin during our FaceTime interview, since she now lives in
Philadelphia as a graduate student at Thomas Jefferson University. “The residency
really helped me develop and know that my practice is legitimate.”
She adds that the community at TAC contributed to feelings of validation: “I was always
surrounded by other people, so I could interact and get feedback. You don’t always get
that when you rent studio space and you’re alone.”
As a recent graduate, Erin could easily compare the AIR program to her college
“There was a lot less pressure [than at RISD],” she says. “The only pressure was the
pressure I put on myself. It took me a while to accept that this was supposed to be fun.”
Of course, that’s not to say that TAC’s AIR program was a free-for-all.
“I like how the program offered guidance and some structure,” says Erin. “It was kind of
like school in that sense, but without deadlines, pressure, and stress. It helps you to not
get lost, but you can really enjoy your process.”
Erin’s process began when she was young. Since her mother is a textile designer, she
explains that she has been around textiles her whole life. Yet she didn’t immediately
think she would follow her mother’s path.
“We always try not to be like our parents, but we are exactly like them,” she laughs.
Mid-way through college, Erin took courses in textiles. Toward the beginning of her
senior year, she felt she had found her calling. At that point, she was a printmaking
major with a practice rooted in drawing. She started to see how she could translate her
drawings into textiles.
During the TAC AIR program, Erin worked part-time at interior textile design studios to
expand her technical knowledge.
“TAC helped me facilitate my personal ideas while I worked at the studios,” she says.
For the AIR program’s group exhibition, Lost/Found, in September, Erin created CUTE
SOFT, an immersive experience. She created a room, almost like a booth, with printed
fabric walls akin to wallpaper. A dress with a double-sided print (front and back) hung
on the outside of the room. Inside the room was a book containing five prints. Astroturf
lined the floor. The aesthetic is as “cute” as the title implies: bright, colorful, and
“Over the past two years, I’ve been doing a lot of research on post-internet theory,” says
Erin. “I chose to focus on two concepts [for this piece]: escapism and
She adds, “It is a cute, soft space. The idea is when you’re reading the book, you’re
physically inside of it. The purpose of the garment is to give the idea that you can wear
this world that I created. Then there’s the idea of being able to sell it, own it, keep
Erin explains the relevance of “cuteness” to CUTE SOFT as this: “Cuteness is this idea
that you can make something more appealing. If it’s appealing, it can sell. More people
want it. I use [cuteness] in my work as a way of being able to approach heavy subject
matter in a way that’s approachable.”
Now that she’s in grad school, Erin is making a collection and learning relevant science
and technology along the way.
“I’m not saying good-bye to all of this research, but I feel like I can now begin to explore
it in different ways,” she says.
She credits TAC AIR as the place to explore and complete that research—for now.