Monuments of the Anthropocene Era

Monuments of the Anthrop

Liz Ensz has proposed a new monument of Henrietta Lacks in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon Place to replace Roger B. Taney—a slavery supporter who wrote the Dred Scott decision as a Supreme Court Justice. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American patient at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore whose cells, taken without her permission, were used to develop a number of medical advances. 

ABOUT LIZ ENSZ

Liz Ensz was born in Minnesota to a resourceful family of penny-savers, metal scrappers, and curators of cast-offs. Ensz received a BFA in Fiber from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2005), and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013). With an interdisciplinary approach, Ensz’ work presents a comparative study of the mass-cultural investment in disposability and the human desire to imagine permanence through emblems, monuments, and commemoration. 

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“My first time at BMC was in 2009—my first ever artist residency and I was thrilled to meet such an inspiring group of artists and activists and have uninterrupted studio and reading time,” Ensz recounts.  “I made an important ritual for myself by the end of the first week: I woke each morning before dawn, would make coffee and then walk to the boat house with the first light of day. I would kayak into the center of the silent lake in the thick morning fog until I could see no land and had no orientation. As the sun would rise, the fog would glow brighter and slowly shift color— it was a potent phenomenal omnitheater to wake up my senses and attune them to subtlety each morning.”

My work examines the designed and found icons of the American character in search of our underlying values and our aspirations as individuals and as a society. These ideals are visible as monumental forms, but also camouflaged in mundane ubiquity. Themes within the work—the economic flows of resources, moral and material conundrums, and the legacy of empire—are touchstones that constellate to destabilize and complicate what may have been seen as our foundational ideals.

My sculptural and installation works borrow from the visual language of memorial and commemoration in textiles and metals. These Anthropocene Era Commemoratives explore the complexities of the American landscape and contrast human-scale and geological-scale time and space, looking at the ways in which the constructed environment rivals that of the natural environment.  My installations are arranged differently each time they are installed, often integrating locally sourced found materials.  —Liz Ensz

 

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Your Payment Will be Immaterial

 

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Indicator of Abundance

 

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Always

 

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Esto Perpetua

 Monuments of the Anthrop

HELA Monument Proposal

 

TEXT OF LIZ ENSZ’S PROPOSAL TO BALTIMORE’S MAYOR

March 2016

I have been watching the debate over Baltimore’s Confederate monuments alongside the slayings of countless young black men across the country, including Freddie Gray.

I was a resident of Baltimore City for 9 years and recently moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s degree in sculpture. I love Baltimore as the formative home for my creative growth as an artist and a compassionate human being amidst the most resourceful and inspiring extended community that I have known.

I would like to propose the artistic reuse of the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell, and any other public statuary that glorify or support a history of racial inequality and oppression.

With my skills as a sculptor and metal caster and connections to Baltimore’s New Arts Foundry, where I was formerly employed, and the broader community of Baltimore artists, I propose that these monuments to the Confederacy be not only REMOVED- but MELTED DOWN- and cast into NEW monuments that tell history from a broader perspective—one that represents the community therein, with figures that can be seen as inspirational rather than figures of intimidation and oppression. We should survey Baltimoreans as to which figures of African-American history they would like to see immortalized in bronze and installed in public space, but would suggest Baltimore’s own already “immortal” Henrietta Lacks as a starting point.

These new proposed monuments would put Baltimore in the news positively, at the fore of the Black Lives Matter movement and hopefully stand as model for the vision of equality that we desire to embody in our society moving forward.

Please consider this proposal seriously. I believe that we are at a cultural turning point, and this could be a powerful and symbolic unifying series of public events and conversations leading to new public monuments that honor African-American history as Baltimore’s and America’s history at large.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  The Roger. B. Taney monument as well as  the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson monuments were removed in 2017.]