Uplift, a new exhibit from artist Nina Elder, inspired by details from Belfast shipyard and harbor

  • December 06, 2021

(BELFAST) “Uplift,” a multi-media exploration of the act of lifting by artist Nina Elder, opens at Waterfall Arts on Friday, December 10 (National Human Rights Day), and will run through January 29, 2022. During her residency at Waterfall Arts in the summer of 2021 (with support from The Onion Foundation), Elder created eight large-scale drawings, which will be on display for the exhibition. Her inspiration began as she witnessed the care, collaboration, technology, and resources that are used to move yachts from water to land in Belfast’s harbor.

Created using marine motor lubricant and industrial pulp mill waste—materials found or used in other non-recreational ways in Maine—these drawings abstract what is being uplifted, and are meditations on the kinds of invisible emotional lifting we all do. 

The attention to the technologies of cradling and carrying boats in the harbor subsequently led Nina to create “Overburden,” a video installation that is debuting as part of this exhibition. By definition, to “overburden” is to give someone a weight that is too great to carry. Additionally, an “overburden” refers to the geologic material that is removed to expose a desired underground mineral. 

“Overburden” documents artist Nina Elder’s attempt to care for and physically carry pieces of geologic materials in her home state of Arizona. She uses hand-sewn devices, accentuating both her strength and her softness, to uplift and dignify the pulverized, leached, melted, dumped, and forgotten rocks. 

Waterfall Arts Program Director Amy Tingle says, “Nina’s work is a direct response to the extraordinary weight in our current world—so many of us feel overwhelmed, overtired, nearly incapacitated by the burdens of the pandemic and the systemic issues it has unearthed. Nina created from a space of true heartache as she witnessed firsthand the destruction of land caused by greed and cruelty, yet she still managed to ask and attempt to answer the question: ‘what if recognizing internal resiliency and healthy interdependence becomes the hallmark of this challenging time?’ These questions are crucial: Can we help someone else carry a weight that is dragging them down? Can we find beauty in the hoisting, joy in levitation, can we be awed by the miracle of understanding that not one single organism on this entire planet is doing it alone?”

Artist and researcher Nina Elder creates projects that reveal humanity’s dependence on and interruption of the natural world. With a focus on changing cultures and ecologies, Nina advocates for collaboration, fostering relationships between institutions, artists, scientists and diverse communities. Her work takes many forms, including drawings, performative lectures, pedagogy and critical writing, long term community-based projects, and public art. Find out more about Nina and her work at http://ninaelder.com

Launched in 2000, Waterfall Arts is a community arts center that offers resources to arts enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. We welcome the public to engage in the arts through classes, exhibitions, art events, performances, public art projects, open studios (in clay, glass, print, and darkroom photography) and more. For more information, visit waterfallarts.org or call 207-338-2222.


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Chris Battaglia

256 High Street
Belfast  ME  04915