Artist Talk
with Elizabeth Ernst (2010)

— Click here for exhibition page.


In 1997, Elizabeth Ernst walked away from a successful career in the advertising world to focus attention on her own art, making photographs at various venues including the circus museum in Baraboo, WI, Coney Island before it opened for the season, and random carnivals that set up tents in small Midwestern towns. Consumed by the circus since an early age, her studio was overflowing with Schoenhut clowns, tattered dolls, antique stuffed animals and cases of her own photographs. Four years later, after making numerous pieces about circus life which addressed issues of celebration, loneliness and confinement, Ernst decided to design, fabricate and direct her own circus.

The G.E. Circus combines her love of photographic storytelling with her love of sculpture. By modeling each figure out of Sculpey (which is then baked in an oven to harden) specifically to be photographed, Ernst's imagination unfolds and a cast of characters emerge: a juggler, fat lady, acrobat, a host of clowns and strange human-like animals. Once sculpted, Ernst carefully photographs each scene with a view camera and then prints on sensitized linen paper, mounts the paper to board, and finally collages and paints with acrylic. In her arena, animals control their handlers, freaks are the norm and cages are obsolete. The final result is an imagined world created by an artist who mixes social issues with the theater of the absurd to comment on the circus as we know it today.