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Erin Jane Nelson: One Entanglement, Under Clouds

Aug 7, 2021 - Oct 2, 2021
12pm - 4pm

2020/2021 Working Artist Project

This round of Working Artist Projects was curated by Marcela Guerrero, The Jennifer Rubio Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

About the Exhibition

“We are losing frogs at an alarming rate. The chytrid fungus is the likeliest culprit, an invisible and mostly undetectable spore that has been sprinkled across continents, accelerated by global trade and the unfettered circulation of human goods and bodies. In the wake of this fungal rampage are hundreds of small extinctions. I’ve known about the frog fungal epidemic for a while, but I have been stewing about it more deeply now that I innately know what it feels like to fear a microbe on a species-wide level. Have the frogs been an alarm bell this whole time? On my favorite gardening show, I watched Prince Charles plead with the British public to care about biosecurity, to preserve and protect, and imagine that a great entangling hasn’t already happened. How funny. The royal prince of the empire of colonialism—of going throughout the world, stealing, and then taking back to England to hoard—is now asking his subjects to do the exact opposite in a paternalistic, frustratingly unaccountable tone.

Although I fear the entanglement and its implications for health, for ecosystems, I also love the way invasive species digest and decompose national borders, cultural specificities, the illusion of neat categories. They require us to care about lands and water, to weed and dig up, to squash beetles between our fingers, to wipe down the plants leaf by leaf with soap. But the fungus is still killing the frogs. Or maybe we can think of it as challenging the frog to reimagine its body in the evolutionary long term to fight the fungus. I won’t see what frogs might become in my lifetime, but I want to imagine that they will metamorphize into a new form of frog-ness, in defiance of the spores, in defiance of us.

There are three frogs in this show, modeled on the pagan Triple Goddess. There is a maiden frog, a mother frog, and a crone frog. Right now, I would be in the mother frog stage of my own life, but I am not a mother, and I have no desire to be. So where does this leave me? Perhaps I am like the frog itself, fated to adapt to new ways of being, destined to mutate my body to live in the world on my own terms. This exhibition is a meditation on the lifecycle, of moving from one stage to another while denying the rites of passage one phase requires. A life becoming weirded and warped and beautiful and fraught because of it. Inevitably meditating on a lifecycle is also about imagining the decades to come. What could our world look like when I become crone frog? I want to imagine that the frenetic, entangled collapse of our planet could unfold into a thousand possible adaptive futures. Ribbet, ribbet.”

Erin Jane Nelson

About Erin Jane Nelson

Erin Jane Nelson is an Atlanta-based artist and writer who received her BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 2011. She will be included in the forthcoming 2021 New Museum Triennial: Hard Water Soft Stone in New York this October. Her work has recently been exhibited in Making Knowing: Craft in Art 1950-2019 and Between the Waters at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Other.Worldly at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, and Photography Today: Public Private Relations at Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. She has had solo shows at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Chapter (NYC), and DOCUMENT (Chicago). Nelson is a 2020 recipient of the Rabkin Award for Arts Journalism. Her work is included in numerous institutional and public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (USA), the Fries Museum (NL), and KADIST (USA), and has been featured in publications such as Frieze Magazine, Cultured Magazine, The New York Times’ T Magazine, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Chicago Tribune, and Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles.

Major funding provided by the Charles Loridans Foundation, the Antinori Foundation, and the AEC Trust, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Above image detail of:  The Word for World is Flower, 2021,  Colored pencil, paper, shells, pigment print, pigment, and ecopoxy on glazed stoneware, 32 x 15.5 x 4.5 inches

Artist Talk held August 31, 2021

Photography by Alvaro Santistevan