New Mexico-based artist Nina Elder explores geology, ecological processes, and deep time while addressing social justice and transformation with materials like radioactive charcoal, stardust, and pulverized guns.
Datil, NM | ninaelder.com | @ninaelder_artist
Multidisciplinary artist Nina Elder explores geology, ecological processes, and deep time while addressing social justice and transformation. Migrating between rural regions of New Mexico and Alaska, she employs research, drawing, public art, community-based projects, performance, pedagogy, and writing to consider humanity’s dependence and impact on the natural world.
“My work right now is about changes happening on a planetary scale and finding the intrigue and beauty that exists in human consciousness,” she explains. Elder considers herself an artist and researcher whose work focuses on “changing cultures and ecologies.”
Elder’s creative practice centers on curiosity, empathy, collaboration, and storytelling as means to dismantle biases and binaries, such as environmentalism versus capitalism. Drawing on source material including historical documents and classified photographs, Elder seeks to elevate overlooked stories and erased legacies.
For more than five years, she traveled full-time in a pachyderm-colored van named for the Dr. Seuss character Horton, but her home base is a trailer (with an outhouse) in the New Mexico desert. For her meticulous large-scale drawings depicting “the geologic interruptions and human-made destruction of specific places,” Elder sources materials from various sites, then prepares them in a coffee grinder. “I’ve used radioactive charcoal, stardust, and pulverized guns to make pigments,” she says.
Before the pandemic, Elder was focused on several long-term projects across the U.S. “COVID-19 changed everything,” she recalls. In recent years, she’s shifted to community writing workshops and murals, as well as video installation and performance-based work in which her own body is a site for considering issues at the heart of her practice.
“I hope my work helps people develop geological empathy and realize that the planet is a shared home for all of us,” she says. “Curiosity could save the world.”