Artist's Statement

Elise Kirk

Groundswell (working) - 4x5 Negatives, Archival Inkjet Prints, various sizes up to approx 40x50”. Artist Book, approximately 40 plates.

Raised in mid-Missouri, I have long been marked by the interior landscape of my tangled Midwest, which acts as a central stage in my work. In 2016, after fifteen years living away, I returned to the region with a faculty position at the University of Kansas. I arrived in an age of mounting anxiety and national doubt, and in my search for familiar terrain, began tracing a nearby stretch of Missouri River frontier that summons both the ghosts of my formative years and a great paradox in the popular imagination. Here, a rooted agricultural and service community once grew in symbiosis with mass migration, aspiration and devastation. Today I still locate archetypes of seeking and settling even as we wrestle nationally with collective identity, sanctioned mobility and rightful place.

Using a seemingly anachronistic view camera, I invoke chance encounters and collaboration to envision the universal desires, fantasies and fears of ordinary lives at a threshold. Meanwhile, primary season returns as the river swells from a distant storm of flash precipitation, historic ice flows, dam breaks, and controlled releases, come to threaten home and livelihood, and an unreliable narrative unfolds lyrically in my work.