Studio Visit: Joel Elgin
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Studio Visit: Joel Elgin


Organic materials and events inspire many of the forms depicted in our current exhibition, FLUID GROUND. In contrast to the “ground” portion of the exhibition title, printmaker Joel Elgin represents the “fluid” in this show. Elgin’s new series takes viewers to the brutal storms on Lake Michigan that he witnessed last summer. After the storms passed, Elgin took to his studio to translate his experience into his preferred printmaking process, intaglio. Elgin’s studio is at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where he is a Professor of Printmaking. We were curious to know more, so we posed a few questions to Elgin to give our audience a little more insight.

Joel Elgin Storm on Lake Michigan prints


O-L: Your previous work draws inspiration form Irish mythology. What was the thrust behind this new direction?

JE: I talk a lot when I teach. Last spring I decided to listen to what I say and I learned that I constantly tell my students to not be locked into content, be alive to being seduced by new experiences.So instead of being in Ireland last summer, I had an encounter with a violent storm on Lake Michigan near Escanaba. I couldn’t leave it. I stood like an idiot, up to my knees in the waves, I was forced by the “squall” of high wind and heavy rain, to slowly turn, to witness the sublime power and beauty of the storm as it lashed the lake from north to south.

Joel Elgin in the studio UW-La Crosse 1

O-L: Can you talk about your process in translating your physical experience of this storm into two-dimensional imagery? Did you take reference photos or have a specific plan while working in the studio?

JE: I don’t use reference photos because from my experience they tend to have too much information. It’s too easy for me to get lost in the photo details and lose a bit of freedom. Because I don’t illustrate an event, or story in the case of the Irish works, I am free to create what I witness. Of course this means I’m not the most reliable witness…

O-L: What’s next for you? 

JE: I don’t plan to stop the Irish works; I still have a lot to explore in that wondrous country that has been producing art and myth since long before the Great Pyramids or Stonehenge.  At the same time I need to continue to make etchings about my new obsession with storms on the water. I’m looking forward to standing in some deep violent water and taking another beating from a storm or two this summer. Do you want to come?

O-L: Yes! Thank you for the invitation and for letting us in on your practice.

FLUID GROUND will be on view through April 5th. Come by the gallery to see Joel Elgin's prints, paintings by Christopher Chiavetta, Crit Streed's drawings, and ceramics by Amy Uthus. Be sure to check out our next exhibition opening Friday, April 12th from 5-9pm celebrating Olson-Larsen Galleries' 40th Anniversary! We will be exhibiting work by all 55 of our artists; a party you won't want to miss!

03/22/2019 1:56 PM |Add a comment
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