Erin Jane Nelson, Carley, Glen Emerald Rock Garden, 2024
Undersight / Erin Jane Nelson
Jun 7 – Aug 3, 2024
Document
Chicago, USA

Erin Jane Nelson’s new body of work centers around a series of ceramic pinhole cameras and their resulting images. Painted in moody glazes and fashioned into abstractions of mythical creatures and animals, the sculptural cameras employ a centuries-old form of proto-photography as Nelson takes them into the landscape to make images. The show’s title, Undersight, is a colloquial term for the condition of sousveillance, which refers to the art and technology of fostering a more personal, civic form of image production from the lens of “underneath” and an intimate human hand, rather than the “eye in the sky” imaging that monitors everything. By using elements of the material earth and cosmos (clay, light, air particles) to produce photographic impressions of the land, relationships to it, and to each other, Nelson’s cameras do not shoot or capture, but gather and refract. In turn, the exhibition entertains the disobedient belief “that the earth makes itself” and dictates the terms of its own picturing.

For over a decade, Nelson’s practice has incorporated many uses and abuses of photography: ultrasounds, nanny cams, flatbed scans, polaroids, magazine clippings, and stickers. These images are then printed on fabric, or embedded in inscrutable ceramic objects resembling memorial placards, teen bedroom collages, and vernacular Southern craft where she grew up and currently resides. Her ceramic sculptures, often wall-based, have previously served as supports, or a context for her images, which document sites of ecological devastation through the lens of personal anecdotes, local lore, and femme signifiers like flowers and hearts.

[ . . . ]

People love to hate nostalgia. Beyond pretension, paramount to this aversion is resistance to the fear to admit that we can’t ever return to the beginnings of things. We’re effectively stuck, buried in debt to the land and an onslaught of images and ideologies of control. But even Theory, which hates nostalgia most, recognizes that only at the point of failure and disillusionment—of “advancing” technologies, or social movements, or just living—can give you a glimpse at the utopia anticipated at their outset. In this way, maybe the end is always really the start.

—Margaret Kross

Undersight / Erin Jane Nelson
Jun 7 – Aug 3, 2024
Document
Chicago, USA

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