Field research through landscape painting and the concept of “solastagia”
Nina Elder is interested in the visual evidence of land use in the American West and its cycles of production, consumption, and waste.
In the summer of 2014, Elder traveled from her home in New Mexico to visit the Kennecott millsite in eastern Alaska. Now a National Historic Landmark within the largest national park in North America, it was the site of one of the largest, richest, and most remote mines in the world.
Through her project, Elder is researching the human and natural histories of Kennecott. She will process her findings through landscape painting and the concept of “solastagia” in a valley where piles of mine tailings juxtapose a glacier’s natural lateral moraines.
Though Elder’s work appears to primarily study industry, she regards it as a contemplation on people and their relationship to the land. In Kennecott, people mark time by the perceptible retreat of the glaciers and, lately, the repair of weathered mining buildings and ruins that have nearly come to feel like natural features in the landscape.
Nina Elder grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico where she cultivated a curiosity about gravel pits, gold mines, and lumber mills. After earning her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, she returned to northern New Mexico and co-founded an off-the-grid artist residency program called PLAND: Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation. Through paintings and drawings, she endeavors to illuminate the contemporary landscape as the physical manifestation of modern needs, economies, policies, and powers. Elder’s work is exhibited and collected nationally, and has been included in publications such as Art in America and New American Paintings.