Erykah Townsend, also known as E.T., is a conceptual artist from Cleveland, Ohio. Her paintings and objects are heavily influenced by pop culture. She quotes, “I use pop culture as a medium itself - exploring the spaces it fills in our lives and the inquiry of how real are the imaginary". Her reflective and humorous narratives are interpretations of personal experiences, comments on consumerism and art history. Characters, icons, and objects depicted in her work play as avatars of her allegories and criticism, while they retain aspects of their original source.Townsend received her BFA in painting from The Cleveland Institute of Art in 2020.
Townsend views her art process similarly to a Kanye West or Tyler the Creator song, where the structure comes from sampling and the usage of pop culture references. She believes that some fictional characters and icons are so embedded in pop culture that they take place in the real world. Similar to René Magritte's, The Treachery of Images, the pipe is a pipe, but it's also just a painting of a pipe. Mickey Mouse is a mouse, but he’s also just an animated character, although he has a presence in the world just as a real mouse does. Townsend reckons there's no valuable difference between painting a fictional character like Big Bird or a real canary because they both take place in our culture and clearly communicate their form or existence.
“It's all real. Think about it. Haven't Luke Skywalker and Santa Claus affected your lives more than most real people in this room? I mean, whether Jesus is real or not, he... he's had a bigger impact on the world than any of us have. And the same could be said of Bugs Bunny and, a-and Superman and Harry Potter. They've changed my life, changed the way I act on the Earth. Doesn't that make them kind of "real." They might be imaginary, but, but they're more important than most of us here. And they're all gonna be around long after we're dead. So in a way, those things are more realer than any of us.”
— Kyle Broflovski