Krista Elrick

Krista Elrick
2016 Last Fellow
Photographer
Santa Fe, NM

www.kristaelrick.com

Research at AAS

Collage of eight black and white photographs that form one large landscape.
View of the Missouri River from the Standing Rock Nation.
Krista Elrick (June 26, 2015). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink collage.

 

For visual interpreters of the world like me, having the time to concentrate on finding and interpreting historic original materials is both essential and precious. Being a participant in the Jay and Deborah Last Visiting Fellowship for Creative Artists from the American Antiquarian Society (2016) boosted both my curiosity and confidence as a professional artist. Searching for original objects within the space of the reading dome became for me a kind of ritual for me, one that was both deeply joyous, layered as it was in history and tradition, and hugely transformational in terms of my process of making art. Years from now I will remember and reference that unique time of discovery with immense gratitude and a kind of awe.

Map of eastern United States and the Louisiana purchase. State borders are outlined in color and the text is in frenchMap of Native American nations in southern United StatesMap of Florida. County borders are outlined in color

From left to right:
A French map depicting Napoleon’s Vente de la Louisiane and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Lapie, M. Pierre (1806). Reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

Map of the Nation of Indians from the latest Authorities in 1795, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole Nations. From the atlas, State of Kentucky with adjoining territories (New York, NY: Smith, Reid and Wayland, 1795).
Reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

Map of Florida Improved to 1827. (Philadelphia, PA: H.S. Tanner).
Reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

I first learned about the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in the spring of 2015 over a margarita and chicken tacos at La Choza, a favorite restaurant in my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Writer and cultural historian Phillip F. Gura was visiting a mutual friend, and we were celebrating the recent publication of Gura’s history of AAS from 1812-2012. Phillip encouraged me to apply for the AAS Creative Fellowship, and I did! A year later I found myself in Worcester, Massachusetts, immersed in the enormous AAS archive, looking for maps and other ephemeral materials that would aid in my interpretation of the landscapes during John James Audubon’s time (1750-1860).

One dollar bank note from the Howard Banking Company in Boston MassachusettsTwo dollar bank note from the Bank of Washtenaw in MichiganFive dollar bank note from the Commericial Bank in New Jersey.
These banknotes from Boston, Michigan, and New Jersey are part of the Nineteenth Century Currency Collection [graphic], 1800-1899. Reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

What I like to call “going down the rabbit-hole” was, thankfully, right in line with the style of research inquiry that AAS promoted to all the entering Fellows. Thanks to their encouragement and help pointing me in numerous intriguing and unexpected directions, I stumbled onto multiple boxes of early nineteenth-century banknotes. Along with the maps, these banknotes proved invaluable to my understanding not only of the landscapes and economies of Audubon’s time, they inspired many of the collages featured in my forthcoming book, A Country No More: Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon (George F. Thompson, June 2021). Both the collages and certain individual maps provide an invaluable guide to viewers and readers, allowing them to make important connections between Audubon’s peregrinations, and their historical context.

Collage. Large photograph of a square map surrounded by banknotes
Economies in-conflict with healthy populations of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Krista Elrick (2020).
Collage Insets: A Map of the United States and British provinces of Upper and Lower Canada with other parts adjacent (New Haven, CT: Shelton and Kensett, 1816). Map and banknotes reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

Several of the maps I saw from the period between 1750 and 1860 were so large that they required two or three staff members to bring them out for me to look at. The process of carefully unfolding/folding them for viewing, was both tactile and transforming. As objects, each one of them has survived long journeys over more than two centuries. They wear their stories on their surfaces. Discovering the early nineteenth-century banknotes, which, along with the period maps, proved to be surprisingly excellent guides to my journey through the heartland of America, allowed me to understand in a way I had not previously the changes that have occurred there between those times and our own.

layered black and white photographs of the Ohio riverlayered black and white photographs of a large tree surrounded by trailslayered black and white photographs of fallen trees on a trail
From left to right:
View of the Ohio River from Cincinnati Bluffs.
Krista Elrick (September 23, 2010), 4:00–7:00 p.m. Medium: Silver-gelatin collage, archival pigment-ink collage.

Confluence of walking trails at Sunken Trace on the Old Natchez Trace Trail, Milepost 350.5.
Krista Elrick (October 2012). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink collage.

Ten miles north of Natchez, Mississippi, on the Old Natchez Trace Trail, Milepost 8.7.
Krista Elrick (February 17, 2010). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink collage.

 

My fellowship experience reminds me why Audubon insisted that his Birds of America prints were, “Drawn from Nature” in “Actual-Size.” His demand for working with original sources was uncompromising. He lived and worked inside the avian habitat. He hunted down his own subjects, and then painted them while they were dying. Afterwards he stuffed them for the edification of future generations. I too feel that the original resources in the AAS collection were integral to my creative process. Making collages with historical documents is new to me, although the process of searching for the materials is similar to my search with cameras. Constructing my collages begins on a large sheet of paper, where I layer unexpected materials together in order to create a narrative dialog.

 

black and white photograph of gannetts flying over water
black and white photograph of an egret standing in waterblack and white photograph of trees with a cemetery in the backgroundblack and white photograph of a flooded river
collage of black and white photographs of tree trunks and trails

From top, left to right, and bottom:
Swirling gannett, Bonaventure Island, Quebec, Canada.
Krista Elrick (September 2006). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink print collage.

Snowy egret at a theme park near the St. John’s River in Florida.
Krista Elrick (April 2011). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink print.

Sycamores and other hardwoods hold the sky above the gravesites at Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleum, where Audubon is buried. The view includes Minnie’s Land which is located in, Washington Heights, New York City.
Krista Elrick (April 26, 2018). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink collage.

Bio Fuel Farmlands near Deadman’s Island, Aerial View of flooded Ohio River a few miles west of Henderson, Kentucky.
Krista Elrick (April, 2011). Archival pigment ink print.

Sunken trace pathway on the Old Natchez Trace Trail, Milepost 350.5.
Krista Elrick (October 2012). Medium: Silver-gelatin film, archival pigment-ink collage.

 

As a photographer, I too require being in the presence of real things in real physical places in order to make my work. Protected inside my large and medium format cameras, the black and white film frames and collects the original light. Once exposed, the film renders my view into a two dimensional plane. All of which is done during a very specific moment in time, and, in the place where I occupy. I develop my exposed negatives in a darkroom. Once finished, my silver gelatin prints and collages are sequenced and installed into contemplative spaces, such as exhibition walls and creatively designed portfolios and books.

 

A Country No More book covercollage titled Economies in Audubon’s Time

From left to right:
Cover of Krista Elrick's forthcoming book, A Country No More: Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon (George F. Thompson, June 2021)

Economies in Audubon’s time.
Krista Elrick (2020). Collage Insets: Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Havell Plate No. 269. Drawn from Nature and Published by John J. Audubon, F.R.S. F.L.S. / M.W.S. Plate 269; vol. IV. The Elephant Folio Engravings of, The Birds of America, 1835–1838. Robert Havell, Jr., Engraver; Watercolor and aquatint applied by anonymous colorists in London, England. Reproduced courtesy of the National Audubon Society, New York City. Banknotes reproduced courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

About the Fellow

Krista Elrick has more than thirty-five years’ experience as an exhibiting artist and activist. She considers herself a catalyst who initiates conversations about environmental change, particularly in the United States. Elrick has worked with scientists and Native peoples throughout her career, all of who have helped her to continually reframe and refine her ideas about time and narrative.

Elrick holds a B.A in Visual Anthropology from Hampshire College (1980) and an M.F.A. in Photography from Arizona State University (1990). She is also the recipient of numerous fellowships including Jay and Deborah Last Visiting Fellowship for Creative Artists from The American Antiquarian Society (2016) and a Chairman’s Action Grant from The National Endowment for the Arts (1994), as well as Artist Residencies from Everglades National Park in Florida (2012) and the John James Audubon Museum in Henderson, Kentucky (2011).

Her work has been featured in several books, including Art In the Making, by Christopher Benson (Fisher Press, 2021); Imagine a City that Remembers: The Albuquerque Rephotographic Project, by Anthony Anella and Mark Childs (University of New Mexico Press, 2018), Grasslands / Separating Species, with photographs by Krista Elrick, Dana Fritz, David Taylor, Jo Whaley and Michael Berman, and essays by Mary Anne Redding, William deBuys, and Rebecca Solnit (Radius Books 2010), and Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe (Museum of New Mexico Press 2009), which she co-edited with Mary Anne Redding. A Country No More: Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon, with essays by Gregory Nobles and Mary Anne Redding, and a conversation with the author by Joanna Hurley and Mary Anne Redding (forthcoming from George F. Thompson Publishing Spring 2021) is her first solo book.

Of Ashkenazi-Russian and Guatemalan-German heritage, Elrick has made Santa Fe, New Mexico, her home for nearly thirty years, along with her husband, artist John M. Blanchard. Together they built Mayancita Studios where they continue to produce their creative projects.

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