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Chapel Hill North Carolina
USA

Erica Harris

 
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ERICA HARRIS
APRIL 2017

Erica is an illustrator and collage artist living in both Brooklyn, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana. The history, debris, languages, and industries of these cities are a huge source of material and inspiration. She also teaches art to children, both in the US and internationally. In recent years she has facilitated projects in India, Central America, Southeast Asia, Macedonia, Brazil and New York City. These settings have had a profound influence on her work, and the collaborations with children have been extremely rewarding exchanges. She learns as much, if not more, from looking at children’s art and talking with them about their process and ideas as from museums and galleries. Erica envisions art as a tool to outline and interpret relationships to family, school, work, play, death, violence, society, and the environment, providing us with a simple visual vocabulary.


While traveling, she concentrates on collecting collage material: old children’s encyclopedias and alphabet books, found photographs, sewing patterns, maps, gravestone rubbings, diagrams and instructional manuals, mid-century magazine advertisements, medicine labels, food packaging, candy wrappers and other ephemera. Erica incorporates what she finds and sees in the streets, neighborhoods and marketplaces into the narratives of her pieces: people carrying towers of goods on their heads, toys constructed from tin cans and old bottles, houses and bird-feeders made of corroding metal bomb carcasses. In these countries that have been so damaged by years of war and poverty, she became fascinated by how everyday experiences and ordinary objects related to destruction, chaos, immigration, memory, survival and loss. Something very mundane and ordinary could be a symbol of safety, shelter, or peace, while simultaneously being a relic of war. It is in this context that she is drawn to the use of simple imagery: an airplane, a house, water, shoes, birds. Combining discarded materials to make these narratives, such as a schoolgirl with a dress quilted from teabags, or a nest of old road maps, is like creating a shrine, or providing a sanctuary for people, places and objects that need mending.