Historically badass pieces in the Influence exhibit
North America has a huge history of government-sponsored propaganda and one artist’s exhibition aims to expose its nostalgia.
Halifax-based artist Ericka Walker’s exhibit, Influence at SNAP Gallery, is made up of large-scale colour lithographs that focus on labour, colonialism, technological advances, and imperialism—just to name a few themes.
“It usually starts by being inspired by an invention, or an event like a massacre or something,” Walker says. “I try to isolate those subjects by bouncing through academic research and searching for their visual representations.”
If one of Walker’s prints was stood up against an actual print from the 19th century, it would be hard to tell which was modern.
“There’s a lot of reading and sifting through historical documents to really learn the significance of one of these events or objects,” she says. “I try to anchor myself to the 19th to mid 20th century style.”
After her initial research, Walker imagines a particular print in her mind and tries to replicate it the best she can.
“I close my eyes and try to picture the most badass thing I can. So I’ll get a blurry image in my mind,” she says.
Walker discovered her love for propaganda art while attending the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and studying for a masters degree of fine arts. During her studies, she began collecting 19th century military prints.
“Initially, it started on kind of a whim. My partner and I talked about collecting some German posters from World War One and it was an image I was really drawn to and probably my favourite image to look at,” she says.
One day, Walker decided to start creating her own propaganda art.
“As I was being surrounded by these posters, I was getting interested in how national identity is formed,” she explains. “There are all these honourable, noble feats and deeds presented in these posters that are wonderful, but also sort of destructive, myopic, and problematic.”
Now, Walker has created close to 100 of these propaganda prints that are made up of vivid images from 19th century Canadian and American history.
“The process I use was probably in use between early 20th century and a decade ago,” Walker says. “Traditionally, they were used to print a lot of the first newspapers and political cartoons. That was all done on lithographic limestone. So, each different colour that shows up on these posters in the print is drawn on a separate clear plastic film.”
Walker’s prints have phrases or single words that match up with the object she pencils.
“I’ll read through political speeches from people like the founding fathers, but also lots of treaty documents,” she says. “So I’ll take a piece of text or a quote from these and see if it works with the image.”
Walker enjoys the labour intensive process of lithograph creation, but also for her own catharsis from constantly thinking about these important philosophical topics.
“Colonialism, imperialism, the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, militarism; all these things are enormous powers that have shaped our lives and continue to,” Walker says. “There’s all this space between the good and evil of it all.”
Until Sat., June 10