Emily Erb: American Love Story

Exhibition Info
Silk paintings created to contemplate and investigate American values and ideals.

Emily Erb (MFA '12) contemplates American values and ideals in American Love Story. Her silk paintings are created using an Eastern technique she learned in Madagascar in 2005. By combining this ancient silk painting tradition with imagery often collected from American paper currency, Erb investigates the tension between authoritative Western ideals and America’s ethnic and racial diversity.  She argues, “There is no ‘American culture’ per se, it's not hamburgers. The beauty of America is immigration.”

Erb says about her work:

“Guns cannot be restricted because “Americans love their guns.” Infrastructure spending can’t be shifted from highways to public transportation because “Americans love their cars.” It is a perceived autonomy that Americans love. My art is an exploration of American identity. The process involves collecting imagery that references American history and culture, collaging it into iconic symbols, tracing the collage onto silk, and then painting in the silk with dyes. I am particularly interested in the imagery found on American paper currency throughout its history. Silk itself was a currency for centuries on the Silk Road, connecting East and West. The closing of this trade route during the Crusades led to the European discovery of North America through the search of alternate routes towards wealth. By re-creating imagery found on U.S. and Confederate paper currency, I can point to some of the sources of my beliefs about the values of America, as well the power of art.”

For the past decade, she has shown her silk pieces nationally, including shows at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond, VA, The Museum of American Finance in Wall Street, NY, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Benton, AR, and the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in Wilmington, DE. Erb was a 2017 recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Foundation Grant, which is awarded to emerging artists, "who represent the highest artistic promise of the coming generation.” Erb is the second PAFA alumna to exhibit her work in PAFA’s museum after being awarded the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Foundation Grant. Erb is preceded by Mia Rosenthal [MFA ‘08] who received the award in 2014.

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