Exhibition Notes for Field Trip, CDMX, Feb 2022
My husband and I decided to take this year to travel with our three children, to learn from and explore various parts of the world. We just arrived in Mexico City after several months in Kenya. I found the landscape there utterly astonishing, encountering habitats and animals that I had experienced otherwise only on screens, in zoos, or through dioramas and displays at Natural History Museums. Throughout this year, we have been taking our kids to many museums, which often employ diorama exhibits as tools to engage audiences in an immersive way with the wonders and intricacies of places on the globe, whether current or historic, anthropological, or wild.
The jarring contrast between the pedagogical experience in the museum and my lived encounters caused me to focus this body of work on the concept of the diorama. It is a seemingly endless source of exploration for me, both visually and conceptually.
Like a medieval painting, a diorama is a carefully composed and contained story, presented to the viewer in a shallow field that describes a larger environment, offering several asynchronous events that can be read sequentially. Like a tapestry, the diorama is dense with information, made by craftspeople with specified skills.
Dioramas are often didactic and problematic, rife with tensions: art vs science, popular learning vs scientific documentation, culturally biased perception vs ‘objectivity’, taxonomy vs ecology, the fantasy of permanence vs catastrophic environmental collapse. The diorama’s theatricality, the fascinating interplay between two and three dimensions, and a complicated relationship with the viewer are also on my mind as I unspool this body of work.
All made within the last four weeks, these pieces are on a spectrum between experiments, notations, and finished works. My family and I are leaving Mexico very soon for other countries, but this body of work will continue to develop and be influenced by the places we go.
In July, we kicked off our inaugural season, which will host 26 artists with families over the next 14 months. I’m serving as Executive Director and we have a great team on site. We’ve been excited to how this program has been received—including a recent feature in Hyperallergic.
For more information on Interlude and to sign up for our mailing list, visit our website.
In 2019, we established Interlude Artist Residency, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting a flourishing practice for artists who are actively parenting. Our vision is an arts ecosystem that is more inclusive, and we provide residency stays, studio visits, stipends, and professional development tailored to the unique needs of these artists.
Despite the complications that the pandemic brings, my family and I left the US in July 2020. We decided to take a year 'out' to explore the world together. Along the way, I will be participating in several residencies and other projects related to my work, all in an effort to create more expansiveness in my practice and imbue some new energy into my process, and my life. Summer 2020 entailed 6 weeks driving through France, and two weeks in the Netherlands. Then we headed to the hilly landscape outside of Nairobi, Kenya, where we are settled for the Fall. In December, we go to Cape Town, South Africa, where I will be in residence at Greatmore Studios. In January, another residency will take us to Northern Morocco. Subsequent stops planned are in Egypt and the Dominican Republic. In the Spring, we will settle in Madrid, Spain, and I will be spending significant time in Italy developing new work. Summer of 2022 likely will take us to Mexico for one last residency before returning home.
Feel free to follow me on Instagram @elsiekaganstudio and family travel @togetheraroundwego and on our little family blog here.
On view: November 6 - 10, 2019
Location: Compère Collective, 351 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn
Hours: 12 - 6pm
Curated by Anna Cahn for Residency Unlimited
Reclamation is a group exhibition of works by Residency Unlimited’s artists in residence, Ahmed Alasad, Mariam Alnoaimi, Elsie Kagan, Judith Leinen, and Ran Zhou. This group of international artists presents a range of multi-media practices including painting, photography, collage, video, and installation. The artists are united by their use of reclaimed images, spaces, and materials, empowering them to speak to larger questions of identity, urbanization, and public and private spaces.
Anna Cahn writes:
Kagan’s practice is deeply rooted in painting and is inspired by the religious imagery of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Her monumental, yet intimate, works (such as her mother and child figures), abstract and extend the interpretation of contemporary motherhood. Her new paintings decreation, has-been, is-being, and will-be, continue her exploration of this theme.
The archetype of the mother appears in this series -- showing images of women in moments of intense contemplation. The figures are depicted with great subjectivity, in an almost meditative state, with their gazes downturned and looking away from the viewer.
As Kagan reclaims the image of the mother from art, she further breaks down the binaries of contemporary motherhood, drawing parallels between the roles of artists and mothers with creators and makers.
I am so pleased to announce that I have founded new artist residency program.
Established in 2019 in the Hudson Valley, Interlude Artist Residency is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting a flourishing practice for artists who are actively parenting. Interlude provides residency stays and professional development tailored to the unique needs of these artists.
I will be serving as Artistic Director of the program. We intend to begin serving artists in residency beginning in the summer of 2020.
The exhibition title is taken from one of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poems in which she describes an annoying mental distraction at the most crucial moment of death. The poem builds describing the subject’s struggle to focus on her loved ones as she slowly slips away. At the final moment of death, the subject gazes at those who have gathered to say farewell only to have her last view blocked by the fly landing on her eye. The work in this exhibition speaks to this idea of dark humor and hilarity at the most final of moments.
Kagan’s work is grounded equally in the history of representative painting and in contemporary concerns with materiality and surface. She sifts through the history of western art to mine imagery that speaks to her in the present moment - and reinterprets its language to discover an enduring resonance.
These paintings expose the urgent and all-encompassing twin experiences of motherhood and of loss – each a vast and varied landscape of connection, isolation, ambivalence, joy, rage, and grief. Kagan is investigating the odd sense of time rushing by and simultaneously slowing to a standstill, creating subjects that hover between relic and living, both iconic and familiar. The sources for this work are quiet and tender Madonna and child sculptures and reliefs from the later Italian Renaissance, largely made of glazed terracotta.
These pictures break from the tranquility of the traditional Madonna and child, instead presenting us with images in which multiple mothers and children cascade through the compositions, their idealized embraces interrupted by abstraction, replication, and incompletion. The work harnesses the power of pictorial space and surface presence, testing the line between representation and abstraction. Kagan’s large works are physically active, corresponding with her arm span and the movement of her body. In counterpoint, the smaller works are more hushed and contained, emphasizing drawing and mimesis. Color takes center stage, pushing in surprising ways throughout the spectrum and the limits of pigment. The mark making ranges from truly spontaneous to painstakingly careful, alluding to the slippery quality of time itself and the search for that fleeting moment of true connection; that charged moment when paint is at once a smear and a set of eyes looking into yours.
To see more of Elsie's work, visit her website at www.elsiekagan.net
Sweet Lorraine Gallery
183 Lorraine St. 3rd Floor (between Court and Clinton)
Brooklyn NY 11321
Take F or G trains to Smith and 9th street subway stop and walk south toward Red Hook; or take the R train to 4th Ave. and 9th St., turn right down 9th St. to Court St., and turn Left 2 blocks; or take B61 bus to the corner of Court St. and Lorraine St.
Sunday, July 22, 12pm - night
Threes Brewing, 333 Douglass Street
Arts Gowanus' Gallery Dispersed and Threes Brewing partner up to to host The Summer Show, featuring a selection of artwork from local Brooklyn-based creatives hung throughout the brewery.
Join us on Sunday, July 22 as we celebrate all the artists who have contributed work to the space. We'll be hosting a pop-up, craft vendor market from 12pm-4pm, as well as spoken word performances in the evening from 5pm-7pm. Drink local, eat local, and support your local arts community! RSVP on FB HERE!
Karen Y. Chan
I am pleased to announce I was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a residency in August 2017 at the Vermont Studio Center.
MISSING ME ONE PLACE SEARCH ANOTHER
OPENING RECEPTION: July 25th, 6-9 PM
We are pleased to present a pop-up group exhibition of paintings by Melissa Capasso, Delphine Hennelly, Frank Holliday, Elsie Kagan, Chris Lucius, Amy Sacksteder, Tori Tinsley, and Libby Rosa.
Missing Me One Place Search Another, curated by Brooklyn studio mates Libby Rosa and Chris Lucius, offers viewers experiences rooted in memories of place, touch, and imagination. Details of the world around us are recalled from our well of memories. The brain’s stimulated neurons compile a scene by merging groups of consolidated synapses that have been fired in patterns identical to our body's initial stimulation. Traces of felt experiences, emotions, and visual information are melded together to form what we perceive as structured memories.
The visceral and tactile medium of paint relocates a memory into a new creative space - one that embraces the illogical and the uncanny. A space where missing information or exaggerated details illuminate a deeper visual understanding than its integrated whole. The viewers find themselves in a game of psychological hide and seek to construct what they believe they understand.
The artists in Missing Me One Place Search Another play the roles of creators, re-shapers, and folklorist tricksters - painting trail markers of their past to communicate something entirely new.
Assembly Desired, September 2016
In conjunction with Art Slope – a nine-day arts festival throughout the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn – Ground Floor Gallery presents, “Assembly Desired,” a group exhibition featuring local artists ALLIE REX, ELSIE KAGAN, MIE YIM, and RHIA HURT.
On view from Friday, September 16th through Sunday, October 9th, the exhibition features artists from the Park Slope area who upend common motifs from popular culture and art history through experiments in collage, painting, and mixed-media. Everything from Hello, Kitty to the 17th century Dutch still life tradition is fair game.
The opening reception is Thursday, September 22nd from 6 – 830 p.m. The artists will discuss their art-making process at 7 p.m
January 12 - January 20, 2016
Curated by Elsie Kagan
Networking "Sip and See" Opening Reception
Saturday, January 16, 1- 4pm
Goal-Setting Workshop for Artists
Wednesday, January 13, 7 - 8:30pm. $10.
Artist and "New Leaf" curator, Elsie Kagan, leads this candid and insightful workshop encouraging artists challenged by parenthood - or other
life-changing responsibilities - to balance their time and creative energies in 2016!
The Mandell JCC presents works from artist Elsie Kagan , in Everything is Green, at the Chase Family Gallery at the Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT. The exhibit runs February 20 through March 20, 2016, with an opening on Sunday, February 21, 2016, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
I am honored to have received a Promise Award in the Spring 2015 from the Sustainable Arts Foundation.