April 2016 Artist in Residence: Liz Ensz

Convexity / Concavity,  2015

Convexity / Concavity, 2015

This month we are excited to announce our new Artist in Residence, Liz Ensz!

Liz Ensz was born in Minnesota to a resourceful family of penny-savers, metal scrappers, and curators of cast-offs. She received her BFA in Fiber from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, MN; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; Spaces, Cleveland, OH; Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA; East Carolina University, Greenville, NC; and Goucher College, Baltimore, MD.

Ensz has been awarded Fellowship Residencies at Latitude, Salem Art Works, Playa, and Blue Mountain Center, and has been the recipient of The Creative Baltimore Fund Grant, The Gilroy Roberts Fellowship for Engraving, The Edes Fellowship Semi-finalist Prize, and The Gelman Travel Fellowship.

Ensz currently teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the departments of Sculpture and Fiber & Material Studies. She is a founding collective member of The Visitor Center Artist Camp, an artist residency and DIY testing ground in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We asked Liz to share a little bit about her practice and plans for her residency here at LATITUDE.

In your work, it seems you are often utilizing print patterns and repetitions to speak of accumulations. You mirror a process of accumulation of images and materials with natural processes of stratification and sediment deposit. Would you speak a little bit about what it means to shift a sense of time from the human scale to the geologic?

I am interested in proposing a perceptual shift from an anthropocentric scale of time to a geologic one to view our culture, legacy, and all life on Earth with a longer term interest in mind. My exploration of the contemporary American landscape has been fueled by a concern for availability of resources, material value, and the identification of our culture’s most abundant and untapped resource, our own waste. Recent works question the human impulse to alter the Earth's legible geological story, and through the rearrangement of past accumulations of matter, overwrite our own. On an industrial scale, man-made forms and accumulations operate as landscape, and my recent large-scale printed installations consider these human actions in the context of a geological time scale, imagining this movement of matter from site of extraction to site of disposal: from mountain, to hole, to a different kind of mountain. I see these accumulations as the homogenization of matter and culture through mass-production and global distribution. In time, our material footprint will outlive the emblems and statues designed to signify our political and moral ideals, and stand as a chronicle of human activity, similar to the legibility of sedimentary rocks and minerals: an unintended compressed cultural monument spanning the majority of the Earth’s surface.

Would you give some insight into way you work, specifically how you are altering the printed image and its role integrated into sculptural forms and installations?

The sites that I have chosen for this recent body of work are Google Earth aerial views of sites of material extraction. In order to get a specific resolution and perspective I must stitch together dozens of aerial views. As a printed sheer textile, I pair this composite image with sculptures based on topographic data for the same site that was collected during the middle 19th Century by the United States Geological Survey. Any landscape that has been drastically altered in the past 170 years will often show a radical difference in these two data sets. In examining this data, I have attempted to reconstruct some of these eliminated landforms as a kind of memorial sculpture. In my time at Latitude I am exploring the visual effects of translation in how the aerial image data "drapes" over the topographic modeling in Google Earth.


During your residency, you're hoping to use the printers for alternative material printing. How do you see production at LATITUDE expanding or helping your practice?

For over a decade I have been designing and printing large-scale textiles by hand, from repeat-patterned yardage to unique CMYK photographic compositions that can require up to 36 screens tiled together for the scale that I work at. It’s extremely labor-intensive, but extremely gratifying. My goal in digital printing on fabric at Latitude is to create a body of sheer full-color photographic textiles to overlay with black and white silkscreen prints on canvas or with sculptural forms. I am interested in combining the handmade with digital output in my textiles and sculpture. When people hear the word technology today they primarily think of new developments in digital technology, but as someone who is dedicated to haptic engagement with materials, I am interested in technology in much broader terms- for example, sewing, darkroom photography, and silkscreen are all technologies, and I would add that they are far from obsolete. I don't believe in a hierarchy of technologies, because what each offers is not better or worse, but different.

In addition, I'd like to print a series of photographs that I shot on medium format film this winter while at The Center for Land Use Interpretation in the Mojave Desert of California. Inspired by the stereoscopic landscape photography of the western frontier, I used a stereoscopic Holga to photograph nearby dumping sites on Bureau of Land Management land. I had the opportunity to develop and print this film in a darkroom this winter and remembered the magic of the photograph as a product of chemistry, and as an actual object. So many of our encounters with images now are digital, but I argue that the photograph as a physical object can be extremely powerful.

Liz's open studio hours are from 6pm-9pm every Wednesday this month, please email info@latituechicago.org to schedule a studio visit.