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Jennifer

 

 
 

Part 1 - A reckoning of past work, behaviors and clients
My artist practice is a critique of my professional design practice. It’s a decades-long performance piece. ORA+CLE is the most recent in a series of projects titled: The Cantos. A reckoning of past work, behaviors and clients.

 
 
 Still from  The Cantos: 3,  2016

Still from The Cantos: 3, 2016

 
 

The Cantos: 1 was a 2-month long, daily written response, to a 6,000 mile road trip, on a 40′ scroll. The Cantos: 2 was the burning of this scroll and (forthcoming) the ashes will be used to bake a cake I eat. The Cantos: 3 was a month-long, live-streamed reading of 2000 pages of email, representing nine months of digital communication — from the initial courting through the final threat of a lawsuit. ORA+CLE is The Cantos: 4. And The Cantos: 5 will be a future performance where I’ll ritualistically strangle a client’s emails with zip cords. This collection will be cast in bronze, acting as a monument to the relationship.

 
 
 

 
 
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles...
— Jack Kerouac
 
 

Part 2 - Exploring natural and human forces
In my 45th year, I took a break from, Viewers Like You, and returned to school, to experience something that looked and felt very much like a residency.

There was eight of us traveling across the American southwest, camping, to “explore natural and human forces that shape contemporary landscapes.” The program, Land Arts of the American West, is a “semester abroad in our own back yard.” Among many other things, Land Arts makes you very familiar with geology and weather, uranium mines and UFO landing sites.

As expected, I experienced a wide-range of Land Art. As expected, I was often physically uncomfortable. As expected I made meaningful work. But what I didn’t expected, was how intellectually and emotionally disrupted I found myself at times. And it was good.

Individually, and through the whole coterie of tumult, I was offered unique opportunities to really see. See my habits, see my biases, see how I respond to the very unfamiliar, and see. Just see. I saw poverty, I saw injustice. I saw majesty. I saw time. I witnessed the hand of humans creating beauty. I also saw the destructive nature of society. I lived intimately with strangers, exposing myself in intentional and unintentional ways. I’ve never laughed so much or so hard. My life felt at risk sometimes. My mortality was often present. My bliss, just as much. I was dirty. I felt lonely. I endured and thrived in ways I never imagined. Through this carefully curated, six-thousand mile journey, how I see myself and the world had been forever altered.

I matriculated, dropped out, tuned in and got turned on, making art in places far, far away from any art scene — not to mention from bathrooms, decent beds and air-conditioning. My decision to take a break from Viewers Like You and create a new platform for how I work, is, without a doubt, linked to what was unearthed inside while on this journey. 

ORA+CLE is a direct descendant of my time in the field. To see clearly {often in distress}. To unpack, befriend and catalogue. To then make manifest both rationally and intuitively. That's the root of my work. Of who I am. 

 
 
 

 
 

Part 3 - Standing on the shoulders of giants
ORA+CLE was developed over the span of a year. I kept a record of intuitive downloads, drew from personal experiences, and catalogued a digital file of wisdom found online. All have conspired to make ORA+CLE what she is today. And … time is funny. Due to how long I’ve immersed myself in the study of Tarot and oracle decks, close to a decade now, absorbing others’ original ideas into ORA+CLE is a distinct possibility. I’ve pro-actively reviewed ORA+CLE to avoid this scenario, but if you’ve been assimilated, by all means, let me know. I want to remedy that, pronto. I care deeply about this and any infringement on your intellectual property is unintentional. Accept my apologies in advance and I’ll make it right.

Influences aren’t limited to, but absolutely include: Rachel PollackBrian EnoMiranda JulySarah Faith GottesdienerMary Grisey, and Mary Evans.

The brilliant and wise Rebekah ErevSuzanne Lentz and Grace Hall all served as ORA+CLE beta testers. Their insights and feedback helped to shape the deck, and my confidence in it. Kate Thompson of Palindrome Creative Co. made things that much more real, through the photography you see on this site.

And deep gratitude is owed to Andrea Zittel. ORA+CLE would be nothing if not for Zittel’s brilliant (and now defunct) Wagon Station Encampment Residency. My time on her property in Joshua Tree, California was integral to the inception of ORA+CLE, and provided the momentum necessary to realize this project.

 
 
 

 
 
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Jennifer Elsner is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in text, graphic design, sculpture, process and performance. And while she’s uncomfortable talking about herself in the third person, has heard it can be effective for things like this.

Elsner has participated in exhibitions at Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, Lubbock, TX; Texas Biennial 2013, online; The Jones Center, Austin, TX; and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York, NY. Collections include the Franklin Furnace Collection at the Museum of Modern Art—additionally, her ephemeral work is found in private collections. Publications include 365: AIGA Year in Design and Time Capsule: A Concise Encyclopedia by Women Artists. She is a graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art. Elsner lives and works in Richmond, VA.

jenniferelsner.com