Amy Ernst, who “tried to run away” from her art-making family legacy, which includes Philipp, Max, and Jimmy Ernst, showcases abstract surrealist collages at Sedona City Hall.
SEDONA, AZ—Great-granddaughter of portrait painter Philipp Ernst, granddaughter of surrealist art pioneer Max Ernst, and daughter to abstract painter Hans-Ulrich “Jimmy” Ernst, Amy Ernst recently returned to Sedona, Arizona, where Max and his wife Dorothea Tanning lived for several years, for the opening of Elements of Collage. Ernst’s twenty-five collages, on view at Sedona City Hall, attest to that legacy.
Her vibrant monoprint assemblages of rice paper, cut-out imagery, paint, and other diverse materials conjure dance, hybrid human-insect creatures, birds in flight, and portals to parallel realities.
“I consider myself an abstract surrealist,” Ernst says during an interview following a September 7, 2023, opening reception. “And I’ve always been an intuitive artist. I don’t go into creating work for an exhibition with any forethought or intention.” She’s inspired by the music she listens to while working. Ernst also meditates, which puts her in the right space for creating.
The idea for Elements of Collage was hatched almost two years ago when Ernst visited Sedona for her sixty-ninth birthday. She met Nancy Lattanzi, the city’s arts and culture coordinator, and “it was like meeting an old friend. Nancy asked if I’d be interested in exhibiting, and I said, ‘Of course!’”
Ernst wasn’t able to attend the Sedona Arts Center exhibition 31 Women Artists in 2020 due to illness. The show included works by six of the women artists featured in Exhibition by 31 Women in New York, which Peggy Guggenheim curated in 1943 to celebrate women surrealist artists. But Ernst had a piece in the Sedona show. Represented by Die Galerie in Frankfurt, Germany, Ernst shows all over the world, including Morocco, Spain, Sweden, and France. But exhibiting in Sedona is like coming home, she says.
Max Ernst and Tanning moved to Sedona in 1946 and built a home called Capricorn Hill, where young Amy Ernst lived for a time and where her family would often visit. The home is available to tour.
Ernst never intended to follow in her family’s footsteps. “I didn’t choose to be an artist, it chose me,” she says. “I tried to run away from it.” She received her Master of Arts in arts administration from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in theater arts from Emerson College in Boston. Eventually, she started drawing and painting.
The collage work started, she says, “While I was painting. When I didn’t like what I was doing, I tore them up.” She has boxes of such bits, she adds, including “pieces from other collages” along with cut-out images and materials collected over the years. Her grandmother, Louise Ameilia Strauss-Ernst, for whom she’s named, was also an artist whose collages were part of the first Cologne Dada exhibition. Combined with her interest in Medieval and Renaissance art, Ernst’s collages continue the surrealist tradition her family helped initiate while extending that sensibility firmly into the canon of 21st-century art.
Elements of Collage runs through January 3, 2024. Viewings are by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact Nancy Lattanzi at 928-203-5078 or email@example.com.