Elizabeth Ernst

Ernst

David Ernst was born in 1948 with Cerebral Palsy, at a time when institutionalization was the prescribed recommendation. Rather than listen to the doctors, Elizabeth’s parents sent all three children to a private school in Buffalo, where his sisters functioned as his protectors – a role they still play today. Having a special-needs brother has been the single most important experience in Elizabeth’s life, and is the inspiration behind her ongoing body of work, The G.E Circus – a cast of character she sculpts from clay, paper mache and metal, which are then photographed in constructed environments – giving voice to those often considered abnormal or other.

In her newest pieces, Ernst continues to create characters that tackle the many issues of difference, along with the affects of aging on the mind and body, which can be seen in the arthritic fingers and glazed eyes of the piano player. Whether real or imagined, Elizabeth Ernst creates a world that relies on disbelief and suspended reality, peppered with absolute truths.

For more than 12 years, Elizabeth Ernst has created art about the people and entertainers affiliated with the G.E. Circus, a small family owned circus of aging performers. Over the years we’ve seen them pose for the camera in their fanciful outfits, relax backstage playing cards, apply makeup in their dressing room mirrors, and perform for enthusiastic audiences. Through intimate detailed images, we’ve witnessed their joys and fears, as the glory days of the travelling circus began to fade.

In her third solo show at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Ernst takes us into the Shady Grove Nursing Home, located in Clarence, NY, where several of the G.E. Circus performers have retired. Elderly, and suffering from various circus related ailments, many of the G.E. regulars find themselves waiting out their days telling stories about the good old days, substituting facts when their memories fade. But this is no ordinary nursing home. Shady Grove is situated next to a beautiful lake, and has all of the amenities one can ever desire.

Shady Grove introduces us to Jake, a retired chef in the cookhouse, who vows to keep smoking until he can no longer breathe; Lenny, one of the resident caregivers, who was a former trumpet player in the circus band and still serenades his friends in the evening; the clinic, where residents go to see Dr. Stanley, who has been taking care of them for more than 30 years; and Lois, a former showgirl dancer whose beauty is still apparent, even as her body slowly succumbs to old age. At Shady Grove, Elizabeth Ernst’s cast of characters share their remaining years with us, as they reflect, dream, fantasize and embellish their personal histories to staff and visitors. Through their eyes, we experience the difficulties and richness of circus life, as it continues to change and evolve. 

Elizabeth Ernst is a professor emeritus at Columbia College Chicago, where she taught for 25 years.  She is the recipient of numerous Illinois Arts Council Fellowships in Photography, and two Faculty Development Grants from Columbia College. Her work has been exhibited nationally and was recently featured at the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN. Elizabeth Ernst lives and works in Chicago. 

Earlier images are made in variations of two and average 10 x 12" in size. New works are all unique images printed on photo linen with acrylic paint in various sizes. Pieces range in price from $1400 to $8500.

Please call: (312) 266-2350 for prices of specific pieces.
Prices are print only unless otherwise indicated.

Elizabeth Ernst
The Barn at Shady Grove, 2018
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Elizabeth Ernst
Jake in his bedroom at Shady Grove, 2017
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Elizabeth Ernst
Jake, 2017

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Elizabeth Ernst
Farley, Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2017
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Elizabeth Ernst
Lois, Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2017
Elizabeth Ernst
The Clinic at Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2017

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Horn Player, 2017
Elizabeth Ernst
Ollie, 2017
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Elizabeth Ernst
Pearl the Lunch Lady at Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2017
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Elizabeth Ernst
The Memory Jar, Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2017
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Elizabeth Ernst
Lenny The Caregiver at Shady Grove Nursing Home, 2016
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Elizabeth Ernst
Man in a Blue Hat, 2015

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Elizabeth Ernst
75 Lathrop St apt 3E, 2014
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Elizabeth Ernst
Bertha of Beechwood Manor, 2014
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Elizabeth Ernst
Edie Remembering, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Junk Collector, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
Olivia's Mother, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Poker Game, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
Wish Bones, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Quiet Man, 2014

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Elizabeth Ernst
Leo, 2013

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Elizabeth Ernst
Kenny and his concertina, 2013
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Elizabeth Ernst
Gus In His Kitchen, 2013

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Elizabeth Ernst
Gus, 2013
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Elizabeth Ernst
Wilhemina, 2013

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Elizabeth Ernst
Frank and Kitty, 2012
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Elizabeth Ernst
Marty on the train back from Buffalo, 2012

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Piano Player, 2012

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Elizabeth Ernst
Waiting, 2012

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Elizabeth Ernst
Marty, 2012
Elizabeth Ernst
The Long Career, 2011

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Elizabeth Ernst
Dickie Backstage, 2011
Elizabeth Ernst
Millie the Fat Lady, 2011

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Second Show, Elmer, OK, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Knuckles & Lillian, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Rose, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Photomatic, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Clown Alley, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
After the Card Game, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Sideshow Performer, 2010

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Elizabeth Ernst
Stella By Starlight, 2010
Elizabeth Ernst
Stella, 2010
Elizabeth Ernst
Study for The Second Show, Elmer, OK, 2010
Elizabeth Ernst
The Outside Talker, 2009
Elizabeth Ernst
Lillian's Dressing Room, 2009

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Elizabeth Ernst
Madame X, The Fortune Teller, 2009

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Elizabeth Ernst
Concession Stand, 2008

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Elizabeth Ernst
Hit Willy, 2008
Elizabeth Ernst
Lost and Found, 2008

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Final Act, 2007
Elizabeth Ernst
Orphan Girl, 2007
Elizabeth Ernst
Gator Girl, 2006
Elizabeth Ernst
Wheel of Death, 2006

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Elizabeth Ernst
Loretta, The Once Beautiful, 2006

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Elizabeth Ernst
Big Bertha and Her Thundering Herd of Wild Elephants, 2005

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Elizabeth Ernst
Elephant Ride, 2005
Elizabeth Ernst
The Amazing Mamelle Sisters, 2005

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Elizabeth Ernst
Dickie the Bird Boy, 2005

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Elizabeth Ernst
One Sings and the Other Doesn't, 2005
Elizabeth Ernst
Circus Toys, 2005

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Elizabeth Ernst
Oscar (The Elephant Man), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Tough Crowd, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Ruthie Miller, 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Audrey Margaret Kelly, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Kitty Merkel, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Larry Redlinski, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Knuckles (aka Billy Dawson), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Karl Zucchini, 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Evelyn Nichols, 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
It Took Her Four Hours to Get Ready for Her Performance, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Strange Girls, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Oscar the Elephant Man and His Sidekick Luigi, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
When the Fat Lady Sings, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Evelyn and Her Trick Monkey, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Alive Irma and Her Dead Fish, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Waiting for the Show, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
Letter from Home, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Beautiful Audrey, 2004

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Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation, 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus, 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
The G.E Circus Installation (detail), 2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Study for Concession Stand, 2003-2008
Elizabeth Ernst
Dickie the Bird Boy, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Knuckles, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Lillian, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Frank, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Loretta, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Rose, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Study for Madame X, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Kitty, 2003-2004
Elizabeth Ernst
Jolly Dixie, 2003

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Elizabeth Ernst
Marvo the Mystic, 2003

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Puppeteer, 2003

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Elizabeth Ernst
Bird Lady, 2002
Elizabeth Ernst
Swan, 2002
Elizabeth Ernst
The Midnight Rider, 2002

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Elizabeth Ernst
The White Rabbit, 2002
Elizabeth Ernst
The Hedgehog, 2002

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Escape from the Garden, 2002
Elizabeth Ernst
The Farmer's Wife, 2002

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Odd Felow, 2002

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Harvest, 2001-2002
Elizabeth Ernst
Dream Island, NY, 2001-2002
Elizabeth Ernst
Something Wicked This Way Comes, 2001

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Elizabeth Ernst
A Drift, 2001

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Elizabeth Ernst
Bird Still Life, 2001
Elizabeth Ernst
Pickle, 2001

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Elizabeth Ernst
Tails from the Woods: Protector, 2001

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Elizabeth Ernst
Lost Souls, 2001

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Elizabeth Ernst
In the Spotlight, 2000

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Elizabeth Ernst
Musée D'Orsay, 2000
Elizabeth Ernst
Silver Apple, 2000

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Elizabeth Ernst
Circulation, 2000
Elizabeth Ernst
Asparagus [B&LG], 2000
Elizabeth Ernst
Elephant Man, 1999
Elizabeth Ernst
The Illusion, 1999

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Elizabeth Ernst
Pagliacci, 1999

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Elizabeth Ernst
The Kindness of Strangers, 1999

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Elizabeth Ernst
All Thumbs, 1999