Artist Statement

Eli Burke is an interdisciplinary artist who uses a diverse range of mediums including drawing, painting, printmaking, and installation working with themes
of loss, identity, queer embodiment, magic, empathy and vulnerability. Burke is a full tuition Merit Scholar graduating with their MFA in 2007 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a current Ph.D student in Art and Visual Culture Education at the University of Arizona.

I moved to the woods. All seasons are amazing, but in the winter I remember the woods the most. This was the beginning of everything and the whiteness and the starkness of it all made me feel like I belonged. You could see farther in winter but had to look harder to find anything. Things either appeared or there was nothing. It was quiet in the woods, a different kind of quiet. In the woods, even when you heard a sound, it was a quiet sound, a far away sound. It was a sound that had traveled through silence. It was a dog barking or someone chopping wood. It traveled through the woods to you. No one else had heard it, or if they did, it was different than how it came to you. This was how it was then. There was this quiet, there were tall, tall pine trees, there were deer, there was snow, and there was me. I walked often and far in winter. As far as I could until I hit the border of a backyard.

In my work elements come together in an installation, or space, combining fragmented narrative and poetics. While maintaining a commitment to the narrative, fragments widen the range of interpretation, displacing the constraints of time, persona, and cultural context. The intersection of these fragments allows space for the language of poetry, which provides, through lyricism or metaphor, a platform for the viewer to enter the work on their own terms. My relationship to space stems from solitude and the need to find spaces (often nature) where judgement is unemployable and to “queer” spaces where judgement is employed.

As I consider personal experience, my intention is not simply to transform space, but to arrange outside elements in such a way that space is also considered and included in the personal. Due to the nature of subjectivity and its relationship to the personal, I mean to use these spaces to personalize that which is subjectified, an attempt to objectify the subjective, or at least create an opening. I am interested in the idea that in order to be defined, there must be something that defines, or some form of “other”, just as with space, we need it to exist. I invite the viewer to see farther and look harder, and hopefully through the fragmented representation of my own personal experiences, they may consider their own.