Chris Ernst

Rosies, Reimagined

<em>The Armory</em>, acrylic on canvas, 2020
The Armory, acrylic on canvas, 2020

As a high school student, Chris Ernst learned that when Andy Warhol was starting out, he would project images onto a canvas and trace them, before picking up a paintbrush. That technique, coupled with pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s aesthetic, remains Ernst’s greatest source of inspiration. “It has been a long time, 15 years, that I have been chasing [Lichtenstein’s] technique,” he says, “but I really feel in the past two-to-three years, my craftmanship has finally started to catch up with my vision.”

For the past two years, in his New American Patriots series, Ernst has been painting variations of Rosie the Riveter against a backsplash of bold colors chosen for their masculine associations. “I am interested in the tension a composition holds when seemingly contradictory elements are present,” he says. “Tension [is] created through specific color and semiotic creative decisions in my compositions.” Ernst decided to portray working women on the home front during World War II because he felt their contributions are too often neglected in the historical narrative of the Allied victory. He hopes that his series will help change the narrative—with a Warhol twist. “Warhol also had a quote,” Ernst says, “and I might be paraphrasing here, that he ‘just wanted to make everyone look good.’ So, these were the dual objectives of New American Patriots: pay homage to working women while making them look good.”

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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