From playing shows at Carey’s downtown with his band to being featured in art shows in New York, alumnus Eli Show has done a little bit of everything.
Born and raised in Sioux Falls, Show is a 2009 graduate of the USD art program. He lived in New York City for several years and has toured the nation with his band We All Have Hooks For Hands.
He returned to Sioux Falls to live near family and frequently returns to Vermillion for art shows.
During his time on campus, Show was involved in the Student Art Alliance and worked in the library’s photo archives.
“I was in a lot of art shows at USD and throughout the years. I’ve always felt like applying for stuff and throwing shows,” Show said. “I was constantly involved in the arts community. Arts have connected me with a lot of people I still hang out with to this day. I think a lot of the artists I went to school with, I’ve still connected with.”
Starting a band
One of Show’s projects during his college years was the band We All Have Hooks for Hands, an indie pop group formed of his friends and roommates.
“I knew all the people that were in (Hooks) before college, but we all lived together in college and were around each other a lot more so we basically started Hooks while we were messing around,” Show said.
The band’s vibe was a “party band,” Show said. It ranged in size from nine to 20 members at a time, depending on their setting and what songs they were playing.
“It was like a big party band to some extent, with a little bit more indie vibe to it,” Show said. “We were always into really big gatherings and throwing house shows and house parties and playing music with as many people as we can.”
Hooks eventually turned into a more serious project, playing the bar scene in Vermillion and touring with bigger bands like STRFKR. They were eventually signed to Afternoon Records in Minneapolis, and they released their first album, “The Pretender,” in 2007 during Show’s junior year.
“Touring was such a battle,” Show said. “You don’t really get too far. I feel like the only good tour was the one we did after school, was we ended up touring with the band STRFKR for a bit. One of the members of that is an old Sioux Falls person. That’s where we hit a bunch of big places and played really big shows and ended up being a lot more worth it.”
Adjusting to life in New York
After leaving USD, Show attended Syracuse University in New York, where he received his master’s in fine arts. He said it was hard to gain recognition in the arts scene there.
“It was definitely amazing to be in New York City and see music, art and always have the chance to be exposed but at some point, you get isolated there,” Show said. “There’s so many people and it’s hard to be connected to a community there.”
Show said he knows that made the right choice going to USD.
“I always remembered in Vermillion being able to walk from the grocery store and get groceries,” he said. “I missed that idea of the small town once I got to a big city. If I had to do it again, I would still probably go to USD first. I really like Sioux Falls, and I think you go to school where you want to end up.”
Jurying a book exhibition
Show is the juror for the new Altered Book Exhibition IV in I.D. Weeks Library. This is the fourth exhibition of its kind at USD.
Show was part of the first exhibition in 2009, he said.
“When that altered book show came up, I was totally down to try something new and doing an interesting book deconstruction,” Show said.
Altered books are books that have been changed from their original form to represent something new. Show said the meaning of books and printed works have changed in the internet era.
“I think with the internet becoming the main source of information for everybody and the kind of loss of information that traditional books have, it just kind of makes sense for an altered book exhibit,” he said. “Before, it might have been pretty blasphemous to destroy a book when books were most precious commodities, but it makes sense because of the strange relationship we have to these books to take what we want from it and present it as the new.”
As part of his role as juror, Show selected the works that are now on display. Artists everywhere from Australia, Denmark and Romania are represented in the show.
“It’s easy to narrow down the works,” Show said. “I think you always kind of have your own personal aesthetic that drives you. I’ve always been really big into sculpture and print work, so it’s like a perfect combination of the two. It definitely vibes with the way I work artistically.”
Sarah Hanson-Pareek, curator of digital projects and photographic materials for the library, worked closely with Show on the exhibition.
“I’ve always liked the idea of altered books in the library,” Hanson-Pareek said. “This year we selected Eli Show as an alumnus to jury the show, so every two years we have a different juror. His thoughts are so well-thought out and tightly solidified. He’s just very creative and bright, non-traditional in his thinking. He’s able to push outside the box rather easily.”
Hanson-Pareek said she hopes to see more alumni involvement with the exhibition, which will be displayed until Jan. 3, 2018.
“I would like to see some students from USD or alumni or artists from South Dakota get more involved with the exhibit, or enter,” she said. “You can jump disciplines here so sculptors, painters, printmakers, anybody can work in that medium.”
After returning to Vermillion for the exhibition and various art shows, Show said he looks back on his years at USD as a time of freedom.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” Show said. “It was an interesting ride, for sure.”