Artist Profile

Lilly McElroy

Studio Resident (2017)

Photography, Video
Statement of Work

The artistic projects I pursue are a reflection of my complex relationship with the American West and they explore what it means to be an American in a time of diminished expectations. I grew up in southern Arizona, surrounded by cliché representations of my own experiences. There were cowboys riding bulls, coyotes howling on moonlit nights, beautiful sunsets, and vicious brawls. I’ve translated those experiences into epic photographs and playfully antagonistic videos. I perform for the camera, enacting feminist gestures that reflect a sense of quixotic hopefulness as well as a desire for control over subjects as ungovernable as nature. My performances take a variety of forms and allow me to engage with others or insert myself into the landscape. It is though these projects that I attempt to develop authentic ties to my own experiences, to give the cliché new and personal meaning.

The gestures that I enact for the camera are simultaneously loving and cruel; they are an attempt to discuss the frustration inherent in contemporary experience. Initially, these gestures may seem juvenile as they use the language of physical comedy, but they owe as much to Caspar David Freidrich and the Kantian Sublime as they do to Buster Keaton. I make photographs in which I confront the American landscape and foolhardily demand that it become aware of my presence. I make videos in which I mark my territory and attempt to defend it. These photographs and videos that I produce acknowledge the possibility of failure, that I will go unnoticed, and that I won’t affect any change. However, it is this possibility that keeps things interesting. In these projects, I become a sympathetic hero and a stand-in for the viewer. I face the sublime and call its power into question. I attempt to take ownership of the cliché.

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