Erin Currier sees beauty in all people, everywhere in the world, and she depicts this beauty in her art as a means of confronting injustice, oppression, and prejudice in all their forms. You won’t find evidence of outrage or despair in her collaged portraits, though, despite the strong political subtexts that animate them; instead you’ll witness luminous spirituality and the complexity born of simplicity in the lives of ordinary people.
In her latest series, “The Orchard Keepers,” Currier’s subjects wear beatific smiles and are framed by mandala-like shapes reminiscent of Buddhist thangka paintings, underscoring the sacred nature of the human condition even in the humblest of circumstances. “All of my work is about the human spirit,” she says, citing the struggles of women, workers, activists, and peasants against persecution around the world.
The orchard keepers of the title represent the many ways humans have learned to sustain and heal themselves through subsistence agriculture, transmitting their knowledge to subsequent generations and upholding traditions. “There’s an autonomy in growing food and in taking back our ability to heal ourselves,” she says. “I honor that tradition of growing crops for food, sustainability, and healing.”
Currier uses reclaimed trash in her work, not only to add color and texture to her paintings but also to draw parallels between the detritus of modern civilization and the many lives that have been marginalized and devalued by society, their intrinsic value dismissed or ignored. “So much in today’s world is discarded,” she says, “but there’s so much beauty in it—the jewel tones of tea boxes and wrappers, the graphic quality of packaging. Human beings have been discarded in a similar way, treated as if they’re dispensable.”
In her world travels, Currier seeks out these marginalized people, using her art to exalt their ordinary existence and show them as worthy of admiration and respect. She also points out the commonalities that bind us all as human beings regardless of geography, culture, and custom.
“We’re constantly beleaguered by our distinctions and differences,” she explains, “but in my travels I’ve found the opposite—we’re not all that different from one another. My work is about our shared humanity.”
Radiating love, joy, and respect, Currier’s paintings thus give us a fresh perspective on the world’s problems and teach us that the solutions lie in the inherent, simple beauty of the indomitable human spirit, the force that connects us all.