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SITElab 12 Nina Elder
New Mexico-based artist and researcher Nina Elder creates work that examines geologic time, the influence of human activity on the environment, and changing cultures and ecologies. Elder’s cross-disciplinary practice takes the form of drawing, painting, narrative performance, creative publication, and curated excursions.
What Endures features a collection of drawings from three bodies of work created over the past decade. These works highlight some of the most environmentally impacted and economically important places on earth, question what is sacred, and explore the artist’s practice of “bearing witness” to the world.
Using unique pigments such as radioactive charcoal, industrial waste, pulverized meteorites, and forest fire ash, Elder creates large-scale meticulous drawings that illuminate the contemporary landscape and call attention to the environmental impacts of industry, military, economy and policy. Elder’s drawings document the disconnect between the scientific and the sacred and function as memorials to displaced mountains, felled trees, and disrupted ecosystems.
Also included in the exhibition are seven drawings of meteorites that have been removed from Indigenous communities. Made through cultural consultation with Indigenous leaders, Elder’s drawings record the unscrupulous acquisition of these celestial rocks, and illuminate the void that remains when the extractive demands of science are prioritized over cultural values.
Elder’s newest body of work takes the form of large-scale lists. These lists are a part of her ongoing investigation into the act of bearing witness, and reflections on her personal experience of interdisciplinary research. Elder’s ‘incomplete lists’ explore Things That Protect, Things That Are Sensitive, Exponential Things, and Fleeting Things. Created by carefully incising text into paper the lists are then pigmented using materials such as pulverized guns, glacial silt, and stardust. Elder’s most recent list, An Incomplete List of Things Found in New Mexico, is featured as a limited-edition poster available at SITE Santa Fe’s gift shop.
About Nina Elder:
Artist and researcher Nina Elder creates projects that reveal humanity’s dependence on, and interruption of, the natural world. Focusing on changing cultures and ecologies, Elder advocates for collaboration, fostering relationships between institutions, artists, scientists and diverse communities. She is the co-founder of the Wheelhouse Institute, a women’s climate leadership initiative. Nina lectures as a visiting artist/scholar at universities, develops publicly engaged programs, and consults with organizations that seek to grow through interdisciplinary programing. Nina’s art work is widely exhibited and collected and has been featured in Art in America, VICE Magazine, and on PBS. Her research has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Rauschenberg Foundation award for Arts & Activism, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. She is currently an Art + Environment Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art, a Polar Lab Research Fellow at the Anchorage Museum, and a Researcher in Residence in the Art and Ecology Program at the University of New Mexico.