Elizabeth Folk: We Are Younger Now

March 7 - April 5, 2019
Opening Reception: March 7, 2019 - 4:30-7:30pm
Artist Talk in room 6304 at 5:30pm

We Are Younger Now investigates the visual language of privilege and power through the defamiliarization of modernist design and iconography. The exhibition features sculpture, video, and a performative marine vessel that explore and problematize the aesthetics of mid-century modern furniture, home décor, and landscape design. References to the Salton Sea (California’s largest lake, an accidental and booming vacation oasis in the 50s, and now an environmental disaster) throughout the work serve as a metaphor for the inevitable, necessary, and sometimes beautiful decay of an enigmatic American myth.

Mid-century design notoriously embodies clean utilitarian lines, an understanding of materiality, and an appreciation of craftsmanship, but is born of a history and idealogical era occurring before the civil rights movement, before the voting rights act of 1965, and before the victories of second wave feminism. In March of 2016, in efforts to put a timestamp on the “Again” in Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” Pew Research Center asked Americans if “life was better for people like them 50 years ago,” and most Republicans said yes. As art, design, social ideology, and politics are inextricably linked, what does it mean to continue to curate these objects into our built environments and online identities even though modernism completely failed as a humanitarian movement? As big box stores become full of cheap reproductions, and scads of articles, such as Steven Kurutz’ September 2016 New York Times article query “Why Won’t Midcentury Design Die?”, perhaps we are reaching a tipping point.

About Elizabeth Folk:

My creative practice is situated in interdisciplinary sculpture and time-based media with empathy and social justice as points of departure. I primarily explore issues of class, labor, gender, sexuality, communication, and revolution. My aim is to present important and timely social issues for consideration in a way that is non-dogmatic and not overtly politicized. I have found the utilization of play and humor to be the most effective way to stimulate dialogue and to open lines of communication where there otherwise may be indifference or discomfort. Many of my works take the form of public interventions and guerrilla performances that invite audience participation. These insertions into the everyday have taken the form of a mobile spa vending machine, a pirate waitressing performance, and unsolicited janitorial services, to name a few. My recent gallery works take the form of large-scale interactive installations, object based video installations, games, collaborations with community members, workshops, and brown bag meetings.

Most recently, my research is focused on the resurgence of public shaming in social media and the resultant democratization of justice, Internet “takedown culture,” the discourse of controversy, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation movement and other modalities of conflict resolution applied to conflicts where much of the interface is social media. My current sculpture and video work investigates the visual language of privilege and power through the presentation of modernist design and iconography in contemporary contexts. I am particularly interested in the use of of mid-century modern furniture as a signifier in highly curated Internet identities.

Folk earned her BFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and her MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.