Walker received a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She currently teaches studio coursework in printmaking as an assistant professor in the Fine Arts Division at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Walker’s work has been included in numerous domestic and international exhibitions and biennials, including recent exhibitions in Germany (Positions Berlin, Berlin Art Week), Portugal (2nd Global Print, Douro), the United States (Free Radicals, Minneapolis MN; The Print Center’s 90th Annual Competition, Philedelphia PA; Re-Riding History, Museum of the Great Plains, Lawton, OK), and Canada (Biennale international d’estampe contemporaine de Trois-Rivières, QC; pro/con/textual, Vernon Public Art Gallery, BC).
Her work is housed in public, teaching, and private collections in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia.
the seductive retreat of nostalgia
My work concerns itself with animal and machine relations: the steer and the plow, the soldier and the gun, sexuality and politics. Histories describing these relationships are stories we tell ourselves about the past, shaping a contemporary self-image that narrates the manner in which we work for or against one another as individuals, societies, and nations.
It is easy to sterilize these histories as a factual edifice, upon which we merely accept and promulgate its inertia. Its self-generated mythology is the seductive retreat of nostalgia, a selective myopia that preys on fear and ego. Propaganda—a significant and pervasive causeway on this geopolitical landscape—interests me greatly: Foundational posters, political speeches, and government documents that describe the power dynamics of our modern world. My work refers self-consciously to these, and to the conflation of the individual and the institutional that is their hallmark. It points to both the violent and the bucolic, and the language of national pride grafted to principles of duty, sacrifice, and honor that have long been and remain its allies and infrastructure.
the vernacular history of printmaking
Technically speaking, the majority of my visual art practice revolves around drawing and printmaking. Conceptually, I am interested in the vernacular history of printmaking and printed ephemera, and the ongoing use of visual propaganda in the Western world. 19th, 20th, and 21st century agitation and integration propaganda influences my work a great deal, and the vast majority of my artistic production takes the form of large, multi-colored lithographic posters. These works borrow and distort the visual and textual language of 20th century public and privately-sponsored posters, in an effort to highlight the sociopolitical continuity of past and present, and more importantly the pervasive ills that cling to and define the modern human condition in an era with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Not only do I look to highlight similarities in political rhetoric, but also the way constructed images seek to shape national identity and provide audiences with a specific idea of who they are and what values ought to be upheld.
believing that putting pencil to paper is worth something more
Like any practicing artist who has a family or separate profession, I am challenged to vigorously protect my studio time. Disappointing others in order to carve out that time is a regular challenge, as is minding my health and well-being, balancing production with the research and life experiences that fuel my creative yen. Whatever belief I entertain as regards my work serving a purpose larger than my own self-interest may feel, at times, like a teeter-totter proposition, but it is integral to waking up the next morning and believing that putting pencil to paper is worth something more than navel gazing.
I also know I could easily adjust my work to make it more popular with collectors and curators. I’ve witnessed artists significantly change their work to increase its short-term visibility, that mostly belies the sensibilities of a particular trend or market. Being flexible and open to new influences, while remaining honest about what I really want to produce, can be difficult. Making sure I take the time I need to produce something I can stand behind internally, is more important than fitting an external mold.
one of the most rewarding [relationships] in my life
My experience as a VANS member has primarily been through the Mentorship Program when, in 2013, I began meeting with Sera Senakovicz. Since then, our ongoing relationship has proven to be one of the most rewarding in my life. It is impossible, when working with someone in such a capacity, to avoid checking in with one’s own values and priorities and to consider one’s own trajectory under the auspices of guiding theirs. Ties to, but quite aside from, this personal journey mostly I am simply full of admiration for Sera as an exceptional human being who has expanded my education and sense of self.
I am continually impressed with the substantial resources VANS levels at the community, and how valuable a similar organization would be in all of the other cities in which I’ve lived. Maintaining a life as an artist is not a simple task. Making work, while also navigating grant writing, public presentations, taxes, promotion, and exhibition logistics, is aided with the support of others in similar shoes, or even a few steps ahead. This extra support is just enough to keep some young and emerging artists from despair and solitude.
a real highlight for my studio practice
I recently finished painting a 40’x20’ barn mural in King’s County. I’ve been wanting to pursue a series of faux advertisements on agricultural and industrial buildings for some time, now, and I was able to connect with a local farming family thanks to the Uncommon-Common public art series. The project was a real highlight for my studio practice to-date, and included working on the piece with my former VANS mentee, Sera Senacovicz. I’m currently securing a few more buildings for similar projects that will take place in 2017 and 2018.
I have 12 upcoming exhibitions in North America and China during 2016 and 2017. Talks and panel presentations are coming up this Summer and Fall, meaning both new work and reflecting on recent projects I’ve been involved in as part of my overall practice. I am attempting to make some incremental changes to the way I make images, too, and those shifts are inordinately challenging. Being patient and diligent with the monotonous parts, and accepting the failures, is what my evenings currently look like. I don’t despair, however, as there are a great many blueberries to pick in my back yard, and I have to finish siding the house with my husband and get some reading done before Fall arrives.
Learn more about Ericka Walker by visiting her website: www.erickawalker.com or attend her upcoming artist talks: for Uncommon Common Art (Stop 8), the artist talk is July 20 at 7pm at the KC Irving Centre. Her work can also be seen at MSVU Art Gallery in The Department of Prints and Drawings, the artist talk is Thursday, July 21 at 7pm.