Combining her hyperrealistic style with her vivid imagination, Portland-based artist Lisa Ericson creates surreal, nature-inspired animal paintings. Each colorful acrylic-on-panel artwork from her Border Crossing series depicts fantastical combinations of plants and animals, all of which seem to be traveling on epic journeys to unknown lands.
From turtles carrying mini mobile habitats on their shells to small mammals, birds, and reptiles hitching a ride on the backs of swimming pelicans, each scene is like a tiny version of “Noah’s Ark.” Erikson’s work merges themes of animal migration in the wild with human migration and the refugee crisis. In one piece, titled Into the Dark, a mother lemur perches on a white pelican while her babies cling to her. “I made Into the Dark in response to the horror of the policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border,” Ericson reveals. “Often when I work, I get lost in the technical aspects of painting—the color, seeing the image take shape brushstroke by brushstroke—but this subject matter was a little raw for me and I felt emotional about it all the way through.”
With black backgrounds, each stunning painting is packed full of minute details, reminiscent of the realist still life paintings of the Dutch Masters. Ericson’s use of acrylic paint is jaw-droppingly precise, capturing each creature’s soft fur, reptilian scales, and quill-like feathers with a myriad of tiny brushstrokes.