Ericka Walker at Slugfest

“Loose lips sink ships” was a simple but effective slogan meant to remind a country of what was at stake during World War II. Looking back from an era of unmanned drone attacks and cyber warfare, the idea that the general public and its ability to keep a secret might have any bearing on our military prowess seems kind of naive. And yet there’s still a power in posters and their ability to pull people together. Shepard Fairey proved as much as recently as 2008.

Ericka Walker finds inspiration even further back in the history of poster: the turn of the last century, World War I, and a era of (mostly) serif typefaces. In her hands, the medium of propaganda poster moves in a decidedly darker, more ambiguous direction. Text emerges from a field of corn and missiles to proclaim,”where the labor of centuries has made the land smile”. Celebratory and proud words but the imagery provides a menacing subtext: a bountiful harvest of food and weapons. Juxtaposing military and agricultural imagery, Walker’s finely-drawn lithographs perfectly encapsulate the aesthetic feel of a bygone era but deliver messages that provide as many questions as answers.

Walker’s images aren’t tied to a particular war. They extoll propaganda for the sake of propaganda. Like a classic Orwellian dystopia, she designs posters for a country in a seemingly endless state of conflict. Her lithographs are beautiful testaments to strength and obfuscation rather than clarifying statements regarding a common cause.

A Wisconsin native, Walker is currently based in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she teaches at NSCAD University. This body of work was initiated before her move to Canada but perhaps working outside of the US gives her an expatriate’s perspective on this quintessential bit of Americana. In Walker’s own words, “(w)e keep building, we keep growing, we keep fighting… for better or for worse?”

Ericka Walker’s solo show, “I’m Happy with What I’ve Done,” is on view at Slugfest Gallery in Austin, TX through November 11th. Her less recent work is also worth a look, you can see more here.


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Categories: Exhibitions

2 Responses to “Ericka Walker at Slugfest”

  1. Thanks for posting Jason!

  2. Jason Urban says:

    Happy to do it, Margie. Great show.