Liz Ensz (MFA 2013)
Fascinated by systems, power, representations of freedom, the recording of history, and theories of the sublime, my work examines brazen icons of the American character in search of alternative representations of our aspirations as individuals and as a society.
By manipulating authoritative symbols and empowering unlikely protagonists, my work considers the reordering or leveling of hierarchies and the complication of the binary of good and evil. Camouflaged In symbols of the American vernacular, I maneuver to grant legitimacy to alternative perspectives.
My exploration of the contemporary American landscape has been fueled by a concern for material value, availability of resources, and the identification of our most abundant and untapped resource, our own waste. I contrast hopeful images of America that promise abundance and those that embody the expansionist ethos of entitled excess. Our unsightly material footprint will outlive the emblems designed to signify our political and moral ideals, and stand as our lasting cultural monument.
Theories of the sublime have influenced my work, from Greek philosophers, Enlightenment‐era essayists, and contemporary cultural critics like Derrick Jensen And Rebecca Solnit. In His 1757 essay, A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin Of Our Ideas Of the Sublime And the Beautiful, Edmund Burke’s Criteria for sublimity are astonishment, obscurity, vastness, infinity, terror, and power‐ viewable at a safe and removed distance. I uncover these elements in the industrial scale of man‐made forms and accumulations that operate as landscape.
Representations of the sublime in nature position the environment as the protagonist in the struggle with man. This resonates today as the natural systems that support life on Earth are being overpowered in favor of human interests. Camouflaged in symbols of American power and identity, I Use beauty and the sublime as seductive elements of Vanitas, raising questions of an existential nature.
My modes of production include design techniques and processes that yield a repeatable outcome, such as printmaking, weaving, mold making and casting, and die and jig forming. At the heart of my work lies a determined material engagement, commitment to craft, a sincere hope for the rethinking of the infinite and finite in regards to consumption, and the valuation of resources, the environment, and living things.