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Visiting Artist Series: Elise Engler

The BFS Visual Arts Department officially began its second year of the exciting Visiting Artist Series in early November. Elise Engler is an artist who uses drawing and painting as way of documenting and chronicling various experiences and phenomena in the world.

Often using long, scroll-like papers to make visual “lists”, Elise obsessively documents everything from items found in people’s bags, to the contents of cars, apartments, ships and government virology labs. During her visit with Middle and Upper school classes, Elise discussed how her passion for drawing, observing and storytelling has taken her on adventures as an artist. Recent journeys include an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, where she drew in the research labs at the Charles Darwin Foundation, and an exciting residency as a grantee of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctica Artists and Writers Program.

Elise inspired students with her drawings and paintings that captured the details of these wild adventures. Elise not only shared her stories and artwork, but also guided students through the creation of their own documentary-style drawings. Elise, who also teaches documentary drawing at SVA, asked 11th grade IB Visual Arts students to draw an object or experience that changes over time. They created accordion books that presented their drawings in the format of a linear visual story. The students came up with many interesting concepts and seemed to be fascinated by this straight-forward yet thought-provoking approach to drawing. But if you were to ask any of the students what their favorite part of the visit was, it would most likely be seeing the adorable photos of penguins from Elise’s time in Antarctica. Oh how the students swooned over those penguins!  And, of course, the artwork was wonderful too!