Paradise Lost, 2008
Collection of the artist
Paradise Lost is a response to recent American military policies in the Middle East. It is one of two large political works Erickson based on “fecundity dishes” made by the famed sixteenth-century French potter Bernard Palissy. His monumental plates feature a voluptuous reclining female surrounded by cherubs, fruit, and flowers—well known symbols of fertility. Erickson transforms Palissy’s goddess into a skeletal figure meant to represent Liberty. She has stripped her completely bare but for a tattered American flag. In place of her torch, Liberty now carries arms, and a tablet engraved with the date of America’s independence lies poignantly at her feet. The angelic cherubs wear gas masks and bear machine guns, an allusion to the children affected by military conflict. Oil rigs, the unspoken cause for America’s interest in the region, adorn the background, as do tarnished presidential seals, death masks, and the logo for Shell Oil. Finally, the cross, sickle, star, and lion, the international symbols of the Red Cross, encircle the impoverished scene, marking the real cost of war—human life.