The Gallery: Elise Engler

The Gallery: Elise Engler

Maxwell Ryan
Jan 27, 2006

Everything in Her Bag #43, 1999 12 x 12, colored pencil on paper

Introducing Elise Engler -- an archeologist of the modern day.

She is a portraitist…an inventory-taker… an anthropologist, always looking with the greatest care at the physical objects in people's daily lives and arranging these in visual lists akin to hieroglyphic tablets. The mundane and the unexpected, the personal and the occupational, and most recently, the physical aspects of political decisions, are all fodder for these extraordinary colored pencil drawings.

Everything in Her Bag #52, 2000

This all began when she set out to draw "Everything I Own" --- every single one of her 13,127 possessions (a daunting task, that would have propelled me to do a major clear out before starting!). That lead to a series of drawings of the contents of women's handbags (down to the cab receipts, every last coin, bobby pin, and stray Altoid).


About three years ago, when she began working on this series, she arrived on bicycle, with her portable studio packed neatly into her backpack, making a "house call" to my office where she drew my bag in situ (an accommodation for that fact that no one wants their handbag/briefcase out of their sight). Her goal is to complete 100 drawings of handbags, and then publish a book of them – she is up to 67 and looking for more volunteers, so please contact her if you are interested.
The bag series then lead to the Thirty-Two Fridges and Fifty-Five Vehicles series…

Vehicle #7, 2002, 36 x 12.

Refrigerator #5 (office) 2000 32 x 12.

And then to inventories less literal and more mental… as below:

Some Things that Come to Mind about Angels. 2003


Most recently, she has moved onto topics more poltical – such as investigating the uses of our tax dollars.

Her uniformity of scale is very intriguing; each object being drawn roughly the same size, regardless if it is a truck, a set of keys, a lipstick or an aircraft carrier. Every thing is given equal weight.
Below, continuing the taxes theme, a drawing investigating the parks department and all the tools used to maintain Riverside Park.

Maintaining Riverside Park (detail) 2005 colored pencil on paper

And here, drawing attention to where tax dollars are NOT going. Below is a drawing of the dilapidated chairs in the elementary school art room she teaches art (through a Studio in a School grant).

40 Chairs, Room 506, Art Room, PS 165
Colored pencil. 2003

* You might be happy to hear that this drawing received the attention it quietly demanded – a few months later the art room was outfitted with new chairs by the school.

Elise is represented by the Cynthia Broan Gallery -- where you can see more of her work in an on-line portfolio, including a new a series on the casualties of the war in Iraq.

Please feel free to contact Elise Engler with any questions about her work, or specifics regarding handbag commissions.

- Amy Chase

(not Maxwell)

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