EAF15 Artist Profile: Kirsten Nelson
The Long Island City waterfront has become a game of apartment-building Tetris. In response to this constant change in commercial and residential construction surrounding Socrates Sculpture Park, EAF15 artist Kirsten Nelson has recreated the corner of a building, represented mid-construction, thereby capturing a structure in its moment between production and destruction. For viewers who are looking at Displaced Corner (2015) at Socrates, it is unclear whether the sculpture is on its way up or down. The sculpture, standing at 12-feet with a 10-foot wide wall, and another 8-foot wide wall, mimics the aesthetic of the modern high rise. Across the structure, decorative layers of molded cement, not dissimilar to ivy, climb from end to end.
Having migrated from home to home in the past with her parents, Nelson is familiar with the transition between residential buildings. Numerous relocations gave her an awareness of the structures that she and her family would inhabit. Now living in Sunnyside, Queens with a studio space not too far from Socrates in Long Island City, Nelson has become, more than ever, aware of the effects of urban development on community members. Developers build up and tear down in order to make space for new structures. “From my studio I already see all these buildings coming down around me knowing that mine is probably next,” Kirsten shares.
In reimagining a structure that we see every day, she alludes to a common foundation for all buildings, even if the facades and decorative elements that follow are varied. The foundation for a public housing development is the same as the foundation for a luxury condo. They are, at the skeletal level, made of cement blocks, mortar, and steel. This shared factor in their construction links them together.
Nelson’s sculpture exists in a space between production and decomposition. Her piece is not quite whole, and exists nonetheless as a fragment of something bigger. Nelson’s past work falls into a similar line of thought. In Assembly Required (2010), Nelson enters the inside of buildings in production and investigates the imagery that can be found there. Although the drywall sculptures accompanied by wallpaper patterns depict an interior, they parallel the interaction between the exterior surface and decorative elements in Displaced. “It’s a mix of raw and ornate,” Nelson says of her work. The familiarity that comes with viewing Nelson’s work draws out the associations that viewers might have with matters of development and construction.
Last fall, Nelson continued her exploration of constructed spaces in a group shows; Behind Doors and Through Windows: Reflections on Contemporary Domestic Life at the Edward Hopper House, NY, and Spatial Planes & Timeless Dimensions at Falcon Power Chelsea, NY. She also recently curated a show, Interwoven: Prints and Process, which opened at SUNY Purchase College’s Richard & Dolly Maass Gallery in January.