Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jim Elniski - Bio

Jim Elniski is an artist and clinical social worker who works as both creator and catalyst.  His community-based art projects, in conjunction with various human-service organizations, educational sites and neighborhood associations, explore the dynamic interplay of the aesthetic experience, human behavior, and the social and natural environment. These projects typically develop over time and involve various gathering activities.  These activities, in turn, become the contact points for dialogue and interpersonal exchange, which are integral to the work and provide an opportunity for re-examination of the relationship of the physical and social environment.



Employing a trans-disciplinary approach, linking individual and collective expressions of the human ecology, his special interest as an artist, educator, therapist, and clinical consultant is how we contact, shape, and are shaped by the world around us. Sustainability is revealed as an ongoing process of give and take.


Elniski lives and works in Chicago where he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art Education and Director of the First Year Program at the School of the Art Institute.  He holds an MFA in Multimedia from the University of Iowa and an MSW from the University of Illinois, Chicago. His individual work and collaborative projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally. A Certified Bioenergetic Therapist, Elniski maintains a private practice and is a Member of the Board of the International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis and Esperanza Community Services.

Springs (2011)





Springs, created in conjunction with the Telluride Institute for the San Miguel Watershed Exhibition, explore the natural springs of the San Miguel Watershed as “local beginnings.” Water is a medium of connectivity.  Samples of water were collected from each of 25 springs found throughout the San Miguel Watershed. In the future, water from other springs will be added to this collection.

Conversations with residents about the locations of the springs are held throughout the region, creating a transcribed record of the place of water in their lives. The location of each spring is documented online (interactive watershed) with GPS, photographs and video.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Emanation (2009)



























Over the course of four weeks, 250 Hanoi residents captured their “breath” by blowing- up balloons. The balloons were used to construct a column for an installation at Nha San Studio. The participants are members of various community groups in Hanoi including: Action for the City, Nha San Studio artists, and the people who live and work in the Thuy Khue district of Hanoi near the Studio.

The balloon-breath column echoes the structural stilts of the Nha San Studio building, an example of the vernacular architectural form, nha san, (house on stilts), in which Emanation was installed.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Ambulatory (2009)





While in residence in Hanoi, Vietnam, I asked four local artists to paint a portrait of my feet. Each artist (Nguyen Quoc Hung, Nguyen Nam Dong, Nguyen Cao Thang, and Nguyen Tat Long) was given the same photo of my feet walking. I encouraged each of them to use their own artistic license in the interpretation of the subject.

Hanoi has many businesses that specialize in re-creating copies of highly regarded original paintings. I took each of the finished feet portraits to four different Hanoi businesses that specialize in the “reproduction of the world’s masterpieces” I asked the owner to have a copy made of one of the original I gave them. Subsequently, I directed the owner of each shop to have the copy they had made reproduced by a different copy artists that they employ. The second copy was then reproduced by yet another one of their copy artists I continued this process until a total of five copies were made. The fifth copy was, in fact, a copy of the copy of the copy of the copy of the original.

The “copy” asserts the significant importance of the “original” and at the same time implies that an aspect of its full potential is not realized without it being reproduced. Displayed as a group together with the original paintings, my feet are animated. I walk…

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Harlem Expressions: Made In Harlem (2008-09)




Harlem Expressions is a series of community-based art projects involving the youth organization TRUCE (The Renaissance University of Community Education) a division of Harlem Children’s Zone located in central Harlem, New York City. These projects were collaboratively designed with TRUCE’s students and staff, and reflect its mission to educate and empower youth. TRUCE aims to support youth in becoming agents of positive personal and social change through the arts, academics and activism. Each term the students and staff of TRUCE identifies a topic that becomes the thematic focus of their programming. That fall the theme was “Made in Harlem”, and intended to focus the youth on the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Harlem.

Through a series of biographical examinations focused on experiential reflections of themselves as Harlem residents, participants developed a life-sized “personal shape” that became the basis for further collective work.
These shapes were constructed from transparent acrylic sheets, available as surplus from Material For the Arts, a local public re-use center. Each participant incorporated on their constructed shape text, images, and textures that reflect aspects of having been “Made In Harlem”. Though discussion and research, participants identified a neighborhood site, and evolved a collective public sitework in response to that site, using their acrylic shapes. This work was subsequently reinstalled for an exhibition of this work at Macy Gallery, Teachers College, Columbia University in March, 2009.

Harlem Expressions aimed to utilize social, collective and material investigation strategies to reveal the way each of us shapes and is shaped by each other over time in our community.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Leaving Your Impression: Finding Common Ground (2007)




Together with the affordable housing community residents of Terracina Gold Apartments, Sacramento, CA, I made inked prints of one of their fingers. The fingerprint was used as an image signifying something that everyone in the community had in common. I made enlarged laser-cut stencils of their fingerprints. The residents then stenciled their prints with fluorescent paint to represent this community’s ‘collective fingerprint’. This project was sponsored by LifeSTEPS, a provider of social services for affordable housing communities in California.

The court site, adjacent to the small community center, was originally built as a small basketball court to be used by the residents. In 2004, the property management became concerned that, as a basketball court, it was attracting what they identified as youth gang-related activity. Before discussing their concerns with the Terracina residents, the management removed the basketball pole. When I began working with the residents on possible community-based art projects, they expressed feeling both demoralized and disenfranchised in part by this unilateral ‘decommissioning’. They reported that they did not use this space other than for events annually staged by the property management.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Brainstorm (2007)




Brainstorm was facilitated in conjunction with the artists at the studios of Arts of Life, El Valor, Esperanza, and Project Onward as part of a larger exhibition, Minds Eye: Developmental Disabilities, Mental Illness, and Visual Art. These four Chicago organizations provide artist support services for developmentally disabled adults. The slats were painted and/or collaged with images and text by the participating artists in response (virtual and actual) to tornadoes. These flexible wood slats were then collaboratively woven into a large tornado-shaped iron rod armature.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Inter-Actions (2004)




For a period of approximately eight weeks prior to the installation of Inter-Actions, students at Western Michigan University daily recorded interactions they remember having that day on one of three colored sheets of paper. Each color (red, blue, and yellow) represented three categories of motivation: kindness, fear, and anger. Students determined which category best represented each of the interaction they described. The accumulated mass of balled up paper was stacked as columns in the three planters located in the inner courtyard of the Art, Education and Psychology departments’ building.

This project is intended to make tangible the interactions that occur between individuals and the relational space and discourse that exist between the intrapsychic and the interpersonal. The manner in which we engage with others involves a complex matrix of multiple and contradictory motives. In everyday life, more often then not, these interactions go unexamined and are quickly forgotten. Central to this project will be a reconsideration of those interactions. Interactions was conceived and executed in collaboration with Karen Bondarchuk, Foundations Coordinator, Western Michigan University.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shattered Sparks (2004)




A project that I developed and facilitated out of a series of conversations I had over the span of a year (2004) with members of a Jewish congregation (Oheb Shalom) in South Orange, NJ. Initially conceived as a remembrance and reflection on Kristallnacht, this project had since come to focus on the overarching theme of what do we do as individuals and as a community with the inherited materials and contents of our lives. Participants collectively assembled a form from shards of broken glass that they had written on with personal reflections of the Kabala concept of tikkun (fixing/mending/rectifying).