Elizabeth Houston Gallery on the Lower East Side is currently presenting a collection of work by Daniela Edburg in an exhibition titled “Waning,” paintings, photographs, and mixed media pieces that reflect themes of climate change, illness, and classic literature.
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Edburg suffers from an autoimmune disease that left her bedridden for three months throughout the summer of 2016. During this time, she drew inspiration from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” for her work. She specifically recalls a scene from the classic novel where Dr. Frankenstein visits the Mer de Glace (“sea of ice”) that he describes joyously as “sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul.”
However, when Edburg visited the site, she found its state rather depressing — the glaciers were nearly melted. In her works, titled “Grinnell and Salamander Glaciers,” “Jökulsárlón with Breiðamerkurjökull in the Background,” and “Sourdough Glacier,” she illustrates the “waning” of the ice. These works, mounted on an oval platform, are made from felted wool and depicting blocks of ice floating on water. Edburg hauntingly illustrates the reality of the melting ice with a string of yarn hanging at the bottom of the image as though the ice is going down a drain driven by the ocean’s rising temperatures. Perhaps the most heartbreaking work here is “Tear,” a felted wool piece that shows a human eye secure in a picture frame with a white thread coming from the eye extending beyond the frame — a tear as a reaction to the fact that our world seems to be slowly vanishing.
WHAT: Daniela Edburg, Waning
WHEN: Through Sept. 11th. The gallery is open Wed.-Sat. from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
WHERE: Elizabeth Houston Gallery, 190 Orchard St, NYC
Edburg also offers a series of photographs that illustrate the devastation of the situation— a photo of herself, titled “Daniela in Jokulsarlon,” where her back is to the camera staring at the remnants of what was once a picturesque body of ice. Similar photographs titled “The Wanderer Overlooking Jokulsarlon” and “The Wanderer Above Grosser Aletschgletscher” also depict a person looking at the disintegrating beauties. This series of photographs is inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog,” which features a young man standing atop the Kaiserkrone hill.
While Friedrich’s painting and Edburg’s photographs depict a similar image, their meanings are different. Friedrich’s painting is a metaphor for man against nature and its uncertainty. In Edburg’s photographs, 200 years later, the subject laments over the gradual destruction of nature through human influence.
Edburg gets even more creative by personifying the crisis with works like “Vanessa and the Tornado.” The photograph depicts a girl of about 12 years old wearing a 16th-century style wig made to look like a massive, aggressive tornado. A tornado is also a subject of “Grassland Tornado,” the photograph showing a group of people standing in the middle of an isolated, grassy field constructing a fake tornado made from black and white dyed wool.
Aside from the theme of climate change but relating to the overall theme of ‘Waning’ are digitally altered photographs where Edburg effectively conveys what it feels like living with her autoimmune disease. She portrays herself alone in her home with a distorted body that has her arms, legs, and various body parts all out of place.