Travel/Log by Elise Engler
Opening reception: January 11, 2013, 6-9pm
Everything I Took to the Antarctica Orientation (Colorado), 2008
Colored pencil on paper
18" x 12"
Travel/Log, an exhibition of colored pencil drawings on paper, will feature a selection of "suitecase drawings" that date from 1999-2012 that catalogs the objects New York City based artist Elise Engler takes with her when she leaves and returns home from travelling. In the tradition of the naturalist/artist/scientists of the 18th and 19th Centuries, like John James Audubon, Hans Sloane, Charles Darwin, and others, Engler's minature serial drawings record memories, reveal personal experiences and act as a sort of taxonomy and natural history of her daily life.
She begins each series by drawing tiny depictions of everything, including drawings of her money, clothes, books, passport, etc. While traveling she documents her experiences in small colored pencil and sometimes watercolor landscapes or interiors. Upon returning home she then catalogs everything she brings home, including what she brought with her, the drawings made while away and any items she gathers while travelling.
Her extensive, orderly representations of every object, every person and every experience within selected situations are ledgers of souvenirs. They are a record of every situation broken into its consituent parts. This gives her a process to remember and to understand her experience. For us, the viewer, each list drawing of objects not only gives us a frame by frame film strip of the quotidian accoutrements associated with her travels, but the small drawings of landscapes or interiors made while travelling archive where she has been. For example, in Everything I Took on the Research Vessel Wecoma she documents her personal items she took onboard and while out at sea she recorded every object on the ship. In addition to everything she took with her, the drawing of everything she brought home includes tiny renderings of the drawings she made which, lists every object from the ship.
The seemingly endless, information-rich content of Engler's work is not without whimsy or intimacy. Every embarrassing detail is included, drawings of her underwear, medicines, make-up, travel documents and passport, etc. In Everything I Brought Back from the Galapagos (2008), we can see not only the color but styles of panties she took on the trip as a resident at the Charles Darwin Foundation, where she documented everything in several labs at the foundation.
Lying somewhere between art, taxonomy and natural history, Engler’s work documents in minute detail the larger experience of contemporary travel. Engler says, "The result is work that goes beyond the elements themselves to give the viewer a full sense of an experience." This is particularly true for this exhibition where the collection of drawings create the full experience, of a place, an activity or person through the relationships of the individual items in drawings, and especially the relationship between the "before" and "after" drawing. It is this relationship that tells the story or the natural history of the experience.
Elise Engler received her BFA from Hunter College, CUNY, NY in 1983 and her MFA from Bennington College, VT in 1985. Her work has been exhibited at venues nationally and internationally, including; the National Academy Museum, NYC; Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC; Islip Art Museum, NY; PS 122 Gallery, NYC; Art in General, NYC and the Museum of Arts & Crafts, Itami, Japan. She lives and maintains her studio in New York City.