Beth Lerman (b. 1983, San Francisco) is an American artist who currently resides in Chicago. Much of her work incorporates fictional characters that she regards as cultural touchstones. She draws inspiration from such sources as comics, video games, sci-fi television shows, and internet memes.
Previously working in acrylics and oils, in 2011 Lerman began painting exclusively in the mixed or Mische technique of 15th century Flemish masters. This technique, which involves layering egg tempera with oil paints, has recently been favored by the Visionary Art movement due to its exceptional luminosity and ability to capture depth.
Lerman incorporates famous faces from popular culture to contextualize her work geographically and generationally, but her goal is not just homage. Rather, she pulls elements from this shared cultural vocabulary as a launching point to make the viewer consider these icons through a more universal lens.
Lerman’s paintings rely heavily on frames, which are sometimes depicted explicitly and are always lurking metaphorically. Reframing familiar characters in unexpected contexts allows the viewer to delve into their own implicit understanding of who these characters are: why does it seem so peculiar but natural to place Bert and Ernie in the Garden of Eden? What does our response to this image reveal about our understanding of these characters?
Prompting these lines of inquiry is Lerman’s belief that myth structures rarely change on a fundamental level even though the costuming is always evolving. In other words, the avatars may change but the archetypes remain. Or, in other, other words, “All of this has happened before and will happen again” (Battlestar Galactica, Peter Pan).