Friday, October 2, 2015

"Erica Walker: Printmaking about Fear and Ego"

The prints of Ericka Walker are like no other artist's work I have seen in recent memory. Her work brings together disparate elements, like animals and machines to align different periods of time and the perceptions upon which we base our current identity as Americans. As one print collector told me once after seeing her work..."there's a whole lotta 'something mighty cool' going on on that work". And he was right.

Walker unites iconic patriotic imagery from earlier eras and war efforts in a strangely unique method. We aren't used to seeing machine guns strapped to the side of a bull. We aren't used to seeing missile rockets strapped to the top of a combine machine. Those images of country and the farming community's right to protect their land and crops while in the production of their profession are just as noble and patriotically inspiring as the US War Department's propaganda poster machine to incite and unite the US population to join the battle cry, to defend our freedoms as Americans.

This work is compelling and fresh. It makes us curious as to how Walker comes up with these ideas, and why she challenges the public to re-examine the farming profession as a well-equipped military, with rights to defend themselves and protect the land we call home. Her use of text, lifted from an earlier era of war posters, links us directly to the world war efforts of the 20th century when raising the fear factor of a foreign enemy was commonplace, and we see that the world hasn't changed all that much. We still are in a conflict somewhere, or the potential is still there, anyway.

Walker wants us to recognize the hard work efforts taking place at home. The country's phobia about defending one's borders and the need for our country to defend itself from outside invaders is interestingly neutralized when we see a vine of robust tomatoes growing up and overtaking the barrel of a cannon. There is humor and a whole lotta tongue and cheek going on here. I, for one, am loving it.
So what is Walker doing? Well it seems she understands the plight and hard work efforts of the American farmers. She knows they feed a good portion of the world, and we do need to recognize their labors just as much as any factory workers who would have made airplanes or ammunitions during a war.

These prints are slick and classy. They make us puff up our chest, our ego and proudly proclaim we are American. There are many printmakers who make images about social causes, and injustice. I do not see many printmakers today who inspire and instill a sense of pride through their work as Walker does. No offense, my inked up comrades. It's just that Walker has been able to bring together two sensibilities; one of the old patriotism we Americans felt during the world wars as we fought the 'bad guys' overseas, with a clean 60s Modern look of sleek machinery.
Then she throws in a little classic baroque sculpture of a Saint Theresa with a machine gun. Just inspired.

Walker's work has been seen globally and the invitations on her resume grow by the minute. She is an original artist, and we will do well to watch her as she continues to carry on her work in the medium we love. To read her accomplishments is a long read, indeed. Suffice to say, it is an impressive sent of credentials. I am listing a few of the public collections who are fortunate to claim an Ericka Walker print as being a part of their collection.

2010 University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Knoxville, TN, USA
2005 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

The Harrison McCain Foundation, Florenceville-Bristol, NB, Canada
Collection of the US Embassy, Reykjavik, Iceland
Southern Graphics Council Int’l Print Archive, Oxford, MS, USA
The Leifur Elríksson Foundation, Richmond, VA, USA
The Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, USA
Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute, Jingdezhen, China
Art collection of Mount Saint Vincent U., Halifax, NS, Canada
The Print Study Room, the U. of Alberta-Edmonton, AB, Canada
Special Collections Dept. & Rare Books Room, the U. of Colorado-Boulder, CO, USA
The Paul and Lulu Hilliard Art Museum, the U. of Louisiana-Lafayette, LA, USA
Collection of Icelandic Printmakers’ Association, Reykjavik, Iceland
Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA
Art collection of Nicholls State U., Thibodaux, LA, USA
Art collection of The U. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, WI, USA
Art collection of the U. of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA
Purdue Print Archive, West Lafayette, IN, USA //

1 comment: