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Staring Into Elizabeth Ernst's 'Mirror Mirror' At Catherine Edelman Gallery

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 11, 2014 3:00PM

There is a deep narrative power at work in Elizabeth Ernst's exhibit, "Mirror Mirror," now on view at Catherine Edelman Gallery. The phrase "mirror mirror" conjures thoughts of fairy tales and their inherent, didactic darkness. The canvases are layered and complex, much like Ernst's process of sculpting the figures, photographing them and then adding to them with acrylic. These characters left an indelible mark in their deep humanity seamlessly conveyed through the eyes—the proverbial mirrors to the soul—and Ernst is especially versed in representing the eyes of her characters and the humanity within them.

The cast of characters adorn the canvases in a reverie, sadness and exhaustion. The central character in "Edie Remembering" is in such a state wearing a tiara atop her feathered, boa-like hair. She wears a dressing robe and lipstick as if readying for a performance. Her eyes are bloodshot and exhausted but there is a pride there, along with daydreams.

In "The Poker Game," we meet The Quiet Man, Princess and Gus. There is another participant in this game, but only the hand is represented. There is an air of boredom in this quiet-colored atmosphere. The characters do not look to be having fun but are merely passing the time. The room is woody and shadowed much like their faces and dispositions. 

In "Gus in His Kitchen," he stands near a pantry that houses canned goods such as Green Giant peas and Progresso soup, the presence of these recognizable brands keeping us grounded in our reality despite the overall fantastical qualities. In another canvas, we meet Princess with her large eyes riddled with redness beneath wrinkled eyelids.

The old adage, "the eyes are the mirrors to the soul" holds true in "Mirror Mirror." We see the souls in these works. There is the soul of the characters and even a soulfulness in their domestic spaces and their belongings (Edie’s hairpins and racing form, Princess ax necklace and hash-marked wall, Gus’ canned goods and the moody irony of a ready-to-fry egg).

“Mirror Mirror” comes together showing Ernst’s incredible ability to depict a humanity amid macabre moments in a comical surreality. The viewer is a beholder, reflected in the mirrors of the canvases, as if they ask us to find our own imperfect beauty.

Through July 3 at Catherine Edelman Gallery, 300 W. Superior St.

By: Carrie McGath