Ericka Walker: A Visiting Artist in her own Home
Almost 50 years since its inception, NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery Systems with NSCAD University has revived the renowned Lithography Workshop which, during its heyday, hosted predominantly male, American, conceptual artists. One of the artists on the new roster is Ericka Walker, an Associate Professor at NSCAD who teaches in the printmaking department. As a practicing artist she has published with Jack Lemon, who was one of the original NSCAD Lithography Workshop master printers, and she acts as something of a conduit between the two eras.
Being mindful of her roots in the American Midwest, Walker refers to the printers of the original Lithography Workshop as “good old boys from my turf, from my part of the world.” She hopes that her work reaches a blue-collar audience with a background like hers, in order to chip away at settler entitlement in rural communities.
Walker references historical propaganda posters to communicate subtle messages in bold typefaces. Her line work is meticulously rendered, and her technical style of drawing borders on hyper-realism. With the support of Tamarind-certified master printer Jill Graham, Walker used her time at the Lithography Workshop to experiment with delicate washes and tonal passages that were out of her wheelhouse. The result, From Time to Time, directly references a Canadian Pacific Railway poster which encourages settlers to pursue colonial expansion. Walker’s print shows a rugged settler rolling up one sleeve, and a Kaplan turbine; the same heavy machinery used in invasive hydro dams Site C (Treaty 8 Territory) and Muskrat Falls (Nunatsiavut), which are slated to cause significant environmental damage and violate treaty rights. The two figures merge in layers of hand-drawn lines, graphic shadows, and halftone dot patterns similar to those used in comic books. Walker borrows the text from the original poster (“The Bureau of Canadian Information Dept. of Colonization and Development”) and adds a citation used in many treaties (“may be required or taken up from time to time”). The name of the federal department exposes the reality that resource extraction in the name of innovation is simply a thinly veiled colonial project. Walker cites historical documents that undermine themselves, revealing their own imperialist mandates in their fine print.
— Amanda Shore
Ericka Walker’s practice operates within vernacular histories of the graphic arts, in an effort to subvert the propaganda function of nostalgia in contemporary culture. Her print works and site-specific murals actively dispute the civilizing influence of nation-building in North America, past and present. Walker exhibits widely throughout North America and internationally. Her prints are housed in multiple public and private collections, and have been selected for numerous awards. She lives and works at the head of St. Margret’s Bay in Nova Scotia. Recent barn mural works can be found near Wolfville, NS in conjunction with the Uncommon Common Art festival.