Elaine Lorenz

Artist Statement

‘GROWTH’ SERIES 1985–2006 

Natural forms, especially geologic ones, have always influenced my artwork. I find it exciting and fascinating to follow a pathway with dynamic vistas that remind me of sculpture, whether it is following a stream up a mountain, a path down into a cave, or meandering through a canyon. Mother Nature is the supreme sculptor, carving shapes into rock formations that are ever-changing, weathering fallen trees into sensuous forms, or forming dimensional and ephemeral shapes in the sky. I observed the tenacity of vegetation, soft mosses filling crevices in hard rock, plants growing out of cliff faces, mushrooms pushing out from asphalt walkways, and thin grass-like plants sprouting from volcanic cinders in the desert. The contrast between the soft greenery and the harsh environment fascinates me. 

I began using cement over a steel armature to create abstract forms that evoke hard rock formations with pockets of earth and live plants to create an inviting, secure, and spiritual place, drawing the viewer inside physically as well as mentally. This sanctuary provides a physical connection with the earth; the smell of the plants and wet earth or the heat of the baking sun is a reminder of the life generating forces of nature. I believe that the merging of human-made materials with live natural elements can reinforce our role as caretakers of the natural world. My sculptures require human involvement to survive, much as the natural world needs responsible caretaking.

‘ENCAUSTIC’ SERIES 1995–2003 

This series of sculpture deals with autobiographical themes, personal events, attitudes, and observations that have influenced my language of forms. These encaustic sculptures are generated by the intersection of organic substances, natural objects, and manufactured or fabricated materials. Their construction signifies the mutual forces that interact on our environment, bodies, and relationships. Nature can betray and technology can support. Or vice versa. The dichotomy between the vines choking the wax covered wire form and steel mesh supporting natural objects offers elements of attraction and repulsion and control and chaos. The sculpture’s interior hollow space is active and essential, referencing constricted blood vessels and the birth canal. The personal biographical issues inherent in the constructions are intended to be universally applicable and relatable.

‘BIRDS OF A FEATHER’ SERIES 2004–2019

This series of work is inspired by observations of the sprouting, flowering, and burgeoning growth of seedlings from the earth in springtime. I am interested in sharing the emotion of joy, connection with the earth, and renewed life that I experience. In my work, I have always focused on nature’s generative forces rather than her destructive elements. It is a poetic and romantic view of the world that I choose to represent, and yet there is often a tenuous balance between the forms. The sculptures are composed of several parts, as individual plants are, but my grouping of several forms together alters the viewer’s perception. Often a playful animal quality emerges, but sometimes a more precarious mood is created. The abstraction of the plant shapes, the negative spaces, and the tension created between the multiple forms often reflect human or animal body language and social interaction.

‘PORTALS’ SERIES 2008–2020

New World and Around About are from a body of work titled “Portals,” which reflects the specific experience of walking through the narrow slot canyons of the Southwest. Water, finding a small fissure on the top of a mesa, continued to carve out sandstone and other sedimentary rock into incredible and twisted forms. Sunlight poured down through an opening into the narrow but tall canyon, highlighting the sculptured rock wall with shadows and colors.

I experience a humbling and spiritual effect within those vast canyon walls, but also I am curious to explore around the next bend. These sculptures capture a sense of connection with the earth, the renewal of life, and a feeling of joyfulness. The elliptical form symbolizes endlessness, suggesting wholeness in time and space. “Portals” offer reflective contemplation and a curiosity of the view within and beyond.  

‘KNIFE EDGE’ SERIES 2013–2018 

The sculpture, Expansion-Contraction, was created for an exhibition responding to global warming. The spiral placement of the four individual large elements recalls the typical motion of hurricanes and tornados, which have been increasing in intensity and frequency in the world. The sharp edged wavelike forms surround and threaten the smaller half sphere. The use of a metallic glaze on the ceramic forms brings to mind the coldness of the water, and thus, helps to produce a feeling of discomfort rather than a sanctuary. Other work in this series, such as the ceramic wall sculptures Green Glow, Coming Together, and Lazy Days evolved from the “Portals” series and certain observations of sharp edges often found in rock formations, where softer rock is weathered away leaving the harder rock.

‘ORGANIC ABSTRACTS’ SERIES 2016—Present 

After encountering an incredible seedpod, a balloon pod, at a botanical garden, I was struck with its supernatural appearance. I was challenged to make an enlarged version in clay (Balloon Pod), which is on view here. Would those thin fins support the globe? I began looking at seedpods online. Entada Africana Bild was one of many that I found, and my version is also quite realistic but enlarged. The work titled Tortuga derives from an electron microscopic view of pollen. My research and interest soon shifted to the somber beauty of the dried, opened, and empty shells, such as those seen in Premonition and Pulsation. These thoughts resonated more with reality––global warming and human destruction of our world. In my mind, the empty pods became metaphors for many things––species extinction, hunger, destruction of habitats and shelters––the natural world's loss in general. I made quite a few sculptures in this vein but soon returned to more abstract work with a different twist. These newer pieces reflect a more intimate and evocative vision of nature than soaring rock formations. The textures, repetitive forms, and spiral growth patterns of plants and organisms offer intriguing and endless possibilities. This micro view has also produced more introspective work. Turbulence, Breakout and Keep your Distance reflect emotions from the early days of the COVID lockdown and thoughts of nature turning against us.

 

Biography

Elaine Lorenz is a sculptor who works in diverse materials such as wood, metal, concrete, encaustic over a wire armature, ceramic, and fiberglass. She was born in the Bronx and currently lives in New Jersey. She grew up with both the influence of NYC and the countryside of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts where her parents grew up and later summered. Over the years Lorenz has abstracted various aspects of nature, from the large rock formations of the Southwest to tiny seedpods.  Her references to nature vary from ecological concerns to the uplifting joy and spirit found in living things and the repetitive patterns and textures observed.

Lorenz received her M.F.A. is from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. For nearly 30 years, she served as Associate Professor at William Paterson University, teaching Ceramic Sculpture. Her solo exhibitions were held at the Fulcrum Gallery, NYC; Bertha Urdang Gallery, NYC; the NJ State Museum in Trenton; Artspace, Richmond, VA; the Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ; Artyard, Denver, CO; Tomasulo Gallery at Union County College, Cranford, NJ; University College Art Gallery, Fairleigh Dickenson University, Teaneck, NJ; and the 141 Cedar Arts Center, Corning, NY, among others. She has received numerous awards and residencies including a MacDowell Colony Fellowship (1981), NJ State Council on the Arts Fellowship Grants (1988 and 1999), Athena Foundation Grant for Socrates Sculpture Park (1989), a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Grant (2001), and a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship (2001). Her sculptures are in private, public and corporate collections ranging from Alabama, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas. Last year, her outdoor sculpture Élan Vital was commissioned for Piermont, NY. From 2011 until 2018, she served in the roles of Vice President of Exhibitions and President of the Sculptors Guild.

Elaine Lorenz