Elizabeth Ernst debutes new work in Mirror Mirror

Elizabeth Ernst returns to CEG in Mirror Mirror, her third solo exhibition of mixed media photo-based work. The show opens May 2 and runs through July 3, 2014. There is an opening reception with the artist tonight, Friday, May 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. and an artist talk in the gallery on Saturday, May 3 at Noon.

The Junk Collector, 2014

Elizabeth Ernst is fourteen months younger than her brother David, who was born in 1948 with cerebral palsy. As a way of protecting David, her parents did not let them play outside, confining their playground to the house. It was in her childhood home that Ernst first created her cast of imaginary friends who kept her company. Years later, she is still crafting a cast of characters based on people imagined and real. Mirror Mirror continues the artists’ deep commitment to storytelling, where animals talk, wood and paper mache come alive, and metal objects display a personality.

Like Stuart Little, the Tin Man or Peter Rabbit, Ernst’s characters go about daily life, unaware of their difference. In her invented world, people deemed “other” are embraced and seen as the norm, much like the way her family treated her brother, who was physically and emotionally challenged. Ernst explores this idea of transformation in several pieces including Gus in the Kitchen, in which a bird-like man prepares eggs for breakfast; in The Junk Collector, in whicha man constructed from wood and metal sits among his fabricated parts; and in Edie Remembering, which shows a woman past her prime, her deep eyes and aged skin hinting at a life well lived. Mirror Mirror takes imagination and holds it up for all to see. Her studio has replaced her childhood home as a place of refuge. It is there, among scraps of metal, wood, plastic, miniature parts, power tools and photographs that her characters are brought to life.

Gus In His Kitchen, 2013

All pieces in Mirror Mirror were sculpted or constructed by the artist, then photographed and printed on canvas paper, with acrylic paint added to the surface. All images are one-of-a-kind.

Elizabeth Ernst is a tenured Associate Professor in the photography department of Columbia College Chicago. Mirror Mirror is supported in part by a 2013 Faculty Development Grant from Columbia College Chicago.

 To see all the images in the show, visit CEG’s website. All events are free and open to the public.