Eric Oglander has always been something of a forager. Growing up outside Nashville, Tennessee, the artist, now based in Bushwick, often searched the densely wooded forests outside of his hometown for materials to use in his work. The advent of the online marketplace however, posed a different kind of environment for Oglander. No longer was he scavenging for hunks of lumber to whittle and leaves to paint, but for objects he stumbled upon randomly on Craigslist: mirrors.
For Oglander, who admits that he’s always been “kind of frustrated by found-objects,” mirrors for sale on Craigslist had a certain mysterious spark.
Photographing a mirror “offers this challenge that nothing else does,” Oglander says, noting how dubious reflections are when snapped through a camera lens.
“Either the photographer is going to be reflected in the mirror or the inside of their home will be. It’s like an invasion of privacy almost, and I think that’s why people bring the mirrors outside,” he says.
The weird, unintentional beauty of these mirrors, in addition to the under-appreciated artfulness of photographing them, lead Oglander to start Craigslist Mirrors–a collection of all these photos that he first organized as a Tumblr blog.
Shortly after he started the blog, Oglander’s project began to snowball in popularity, and quickly picked up momentum at a pace he couldn’t have anticipated. He recalls one day, that he “went out and got on the subway, then get off the subway and looked at my phone and I had hundreds of notifications…of people following me.”
The blog got tweeted out by New York Magazine art-critic Jerry Saltz shortly thereafter, and Craigslist Mirrors became a sort of viral art-world sensation overnight. Oglander suddenly had to juggle media attention from the Washington Post, Gawker and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. He calls his blog’s sudden ascent to notoriety “really exciting,” reasoning that “this idea came about from me spending around eight years searching for shit on Craigslist, and it was such a simple idea.”
You wanna see a great artist? 100 new possible genres. I give you Mr. Craig S Liszt: http://t.co/Hfi8m0v3dD (ht G. Garcia-Fenech.)
— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) January 17, 2014
All of the media spotlight allowed Oglander to do what he’s always intended to do with the mirrors project, compile the images in a book. He’s publishing Mirrors, a collection of all the photos he’s collected on Craigslist, in late September. Mirrors will be a sort of homage to the vernacular photography trend that’s recently risen in online popularity, as well as a compendium of something he sees as “inadvertently beautiful,”–old mirrors that no one wants anymore.
Oglander has said that his project represents a kind of “middle-finger to MFA programs,” noting how he dropped out of high school, and that there’s no grand thought-process behind his work.
“People are always saying, ‘oh man, it’s such a brilliant idea, but it’s not like I had an idea of brilliance,” he says.
In fact, Oglander is convinced that all good ideas stem from random walks around the block, or typically mundane visits to websites like Craigslist or eBay. Because of these long held outlooks on art creation, Oglander had the realization that his blog’s sudden viral fame “was kind of an accident.” It was at that point that he “consciously decided to not make such an effort” in finding his next artistic breakthrough.
Oglander’s exploits, although really simplistic at face value, are well appreciated, especially on Instagram. His Craigslist Mirrors account boasts over 8,000 followers and his other work, such as spoons fashioned out of logs he finds everywhere from the woods in Connecticut to right outside his studio on Bogart St., resonate pretty well on his personal account.
As for why he’s always searching for objects online and in real life, Oglander harkens back to what he calls the “inadvertent beauty” of stuff that isn’t traditionally considered art.
He thinks found-objects on the street are way more interesting than pieces fashioned in a studio. “I never go to the art store,” he says.
And given what he gravitates towards most, he probably never will.
Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster