Spotlight: Artist Elsa Mora Creates a Playful ‘Inventory’ of Her Emotions in a Debut New York Solo Exhibition

'An Inventory of Tools for Coping' is on view at Thomas Nickles Project through November 19, 2023.

Installation view of "Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping" (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

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What You Need to Know: For her first solo exhibition with New York’s Thomas Nickles Project, Elsa Mora has crafted a new body of work from an expansive array of media—including glazed ceramics, paper collage, and paintings on wood. The show, “An Inventory of Tools for Coping,” is a continuation of Mora’s ongoing exploration of human experience and emotion, transforming them into corporeal works that are both playful and poignant. On view through November 19, 2023, the works and objects shown in collections illustrate engagements with formal dichotomies such as abstraction and representation, dys/functionality, and organic versus mechanical shapes. Interrogating psychology and feelings, the show highlights Mora’s ability to synthesize levity and humor with trauma and suffering, resulting in a body of work that is accessible and relatable.

About the Artist: Cuban-born artist and curator Elsa Mora (b. 1971) first studied art in the province of Camaguey, graduating from art school in 1990 and teaching art for two years starting at the age of 19. Following a brief tenure working at an art gallery, Mora decided to pursue art full-time and began a period of intense creativity and experimentation. In 2001, the artist relocated to Los Angeles, before several years later moving to upstate New York, where she lives and works today. Mora is one of the founding members of the contemporary art center ArtYard in Frenchtown New Jersey, where she is also the artistic director and curator. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene. She has also undertaken several prestigious artist residencies, including with the MoMA Design Store, San Francisco State University, and the Art Institute of Boston.

Why We Like It: Human experience and emotions are simultaneously deeply personal and widely relatable. Changeable, surprising, and affective, responses to trauma and life’s upsets can manifest in myriad ways—and in “An Inventory of Tools for Coping,” are made visual. Mora’s ability to capture with wit and artistic dexterity various facets of emotional experience in her work is a delight for viewers, who can explore her collections of objects—from wall-based pieces to tables of individual pieces—and subsequently find resonance and insight into the artist’s lines of inquiry. Works like Dysfunctional Object (2023), a glazed ceramic work resembling a lump of gray rock or clay, is at first encounter a tongue-in-cheek play on art and objecthood, but within a psychological context can be seen as a physical reflection of a melancholic emotional state. The duality of feelings and the physical works are at the heart of Mora’s exhibition, offering a site for self-reflection and processing for both the artist and viewer.

See inside the exhibition below.

Exterior installation view of “Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

Installation view of “Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

Installation view of “Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

Elsa Mora, Dysfunctional Object (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

Installation view of “Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Nickles Project, New York.

Elsa Mora: An Inventory of Tools for Coping” is on view at Thomas Nickles Project, New York, through November 19, 2023.


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