The new year looks bright in Catherine Erb’s art studio. Over the past year, she transformed a detached garage into a light-filled space to create her luminous photo-based works of art. She designed the space with Jeff Edwards of the award-winning architecture/design firm Carlton Edwards.
“We wanted to capture as much northern light as possible,” says Erb, with massive windows facing a dreamy courtyard to the north. The light and warm white interiors inform her prolific work. The space includes designated zones for printing, processing, painting and her signature encaustic work. Encaustic uses pigments mixed with hot wax and burned into the work, a delicate and challenging task that Erb has mastered. There is an inspiration wall with vintage cameras, collected treasures from her travels with friends, family and other artists, and a cozy spot for her loyal assistant, Lucas the Labrador.
A Memphis native, Erb has been working professionally for over two decades, producing multiple series, including botanicals, clouds and marbles. Erb layers her images with materials like wax and oil pastels to create an ethereal quality. Through various techniques, she imparts meaning to everyday objects and elevates the ordinary into the extraordinary. “I am always trying to capture things that are fleeting,” she says, which explains why she is rarely out and about without her camera.
Her cloud images and marble studies are widely acclaimed. They have been featured in galleries throughout the United States and many notable local collections. She has re-considered the urban landscape with blurred effects to expose the raw beauty of billboards, graffiti and River City landmarks. Every cloud painting tells a story, and each marble work represents an act of kindness that transcends children’s games with energy and movement.
While Erb is busy with multiple commissions at any given time, she is also constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with different materials in the studio. Her latest work is a series of frescoes inspired by her years in Europe, which will be displayed at the David Lusk Gallery in Memphis in March 2023. The technique is a meticulous layering of plaster superimposed with her photographs. The effect is sculptural, as if carved in stone or “fossilized,” she says. She captures images of botanicals and natural specimens under layers of glass to create dimension and depth. Many of her subjects are from special gardens or events intended to preserve precious memories. Each piece is rich with energy and movement, the type of transcendent energy she seeks in all her work.
sidebar: David Lusk Gallery in Memphis will feature Erb’s new work in March 2023
“The magic always happens in the present.” Catherine Erb