Waterloo Arts: How Does Your Garden Glo?

Scenes from a weekend bug-making workshop presented by the first DayGlo resident artist, Eric Anthony Berdis, at Waterloo Arts.

The 11th annual DayGlo show at Waterloo Arts will open on March 1 and run through March 30 with extended gallery hours throughout the month. As usual the black-light exhibit will open with a festive bash of art, music, and painting. Fifty artists will create new work with fluorescent paint, courtesy of DayGlo Color Corp, responding to the prompt, How Does Your Garden Glo? New this year, Waterloo Arts welcomes fabric artist, Eric Anthony Berdis, as the first DayGlo resident artist.

Berdis will lead bug-making workshops, during weekend gallery hours, with materials that glow under blacklight. He invites us to answer the question, “when was a time you felt squashed by a bug, and what was it that helped you to keep going?” In a recent interview about the upcoming exhibition and workshop, Berdis sheds some light on his artistic journey.

Berdis is from a small town not far from Pittsburgh, and he moved to Philadelphia after graduating high school in 2013. In living with newly-accessed progressive queer ideology of the East Coast city, Berdis further developed an artistic practice in commemoration of the artists who had died as a result of the 1980s AIDS crisis. Also a schoolteacher, Berdis began constructing “gay ghosts,” giant sculptures draped out of colorfully patterned fabrics, making difficult and important cultural information more digestible and empowering for younger minds. Berdis remarks being especially inspired by fashion designer Patrick Kelly, post-minimalist sculptor Felix Gonzalez-Torres, artist and activist David Wojnarowicz,Club Kids fashion icon Leigh Bowery, and the San Francisco-based performance troupe, The Cockettes.

In 2018, Illinois State University commissioned Berdis to create an exhibition in conjunction with their safety-zone training done in light of the infamous 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student tortured and tied to a prairie fence. At the time, the heaviness of this subject invited Berdis to feel connected with the 1955 Allen Ginsberg poem, “Sunflower Sutra,” in which the writer walks along a railroad and discovers a run-over sunflower covered in soot:

…when did you forget you were a flower? When did you look at your skin
  and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive?
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower

Inspired, Berdis began brainstorming the idea of a “queer ecology.”

“When was a time you felt squashed by a bug, and what was it that helped you to keep going?” Berdis first proposed this prompt to his classroom, inviting students to respond by creating insects out of colorful paper and fabric. After considerable positive, excited feedback, Berdis began to induct this prompt into his personal art practice by including the bugs in the installations with his gay ghost sculptures, and in his community AIDS-quilt-tying workshops. The insects had become a symbol of unconventional identity: how each bug is uniquely beautiful, and how together as a swarm they create powerful resilience.

As an extension of Berdis’ running bug project, the workshop will also encourage focus on the importance of insects in the garden’s ecosystem, literally and metaphorically. Bugs created during his Waterloo Arts residency can either be taken home or donated to Berdis to become quilted and included in his upcoming 2025 art installation at the Massillon Museum. Berdis has received honors from the Amos Lemon Burkhart Foundation and the Lydia McCain Artist Fellowship.

15605 Waterloo Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44110


How Does Your Garden Glo?, March 1–30. Opening reception, 6-9pm Friday, March 1

Nicole Condon-Shih and Mary A. Johnson: Microcosmic Orbit, April 5–May 25. Opening reception 6-9 pm Friday, April 5

Leave a Reply