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About The Artist
Elise Kirk is a photofilmic artist and educator concerned with human nature in an ecological world, and the ways in which we construct meaning, particularly with our environments. She was raised in middle-Missouri, studied film at Columbia College Chicago and on a U.S. Fulbright award in Madrid, and completed her MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. She worked for a decade as a media producer in New York and Washington, D.C. for clients including National Geographic, Discovery, and VICE, leading to a post-documentary approach in her own practice. Elise has participated in numerous residencies, including the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska, and the U.S. National Park Service. She is currently based in Lawrence, Kansas, where she is an Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Kansas. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally.
I spent my formative years in rural isolation in the Midwestern backwoods. Called to the city as a young woman, I found remarkable comfort in being surrounded by people. Urban greenspaces became sites for both social encounters and shared solitude. Lying in the grass, eyes closed, the hum of lives around me, I could be transported to a preconscious sense of security. Public spaces are critical to both physical and mental health; seeing others and sharing experience is fundamental to being human. But in early 2020, along with the world, I was forced back into isolation.
This work was made in the summer of 2021, when the world was reopening, and when I returned to New York, my adopted city of nearly a decade. Revisiting the parks and open spaces that had once made me feel at home, I was drawn to private moments enacted in public. Here, people carve out intimate corners for vulnerability—sleeping or daydreaming—under the sound cover of shared space. Hiding in plain sight, our experience is made visible again.
As a photographic artist, my work involves being out in and engaging with the world. I work on long-form projects, generally over the course of months or years, and am particularly interested in how images speak to each other in sequence to create new meanings and understandings. My process begins intuitively, then calls for reflection, research, and deliberate intent to complete a project. I have made a space in my home for editing and living with work in various stages of completion.