Laura Elkins lives in the heart of Washington DC, which informs her two concurrent projects: The White House Collection, self-portraits as First Ladies; and Studies in Domination, which addresses our surveillance society.
By embracing First Lady imagery, Elkins creates self-portraits that are contemporary and personal, while inherently historical and political. The work addresses social and cultural issues, including current events, while maintaining the everywoman quality of the self-portrait. This conceptual device allows her a flexible and expressive vehicle to explore individual autonomy and mutability.
American First Ladies are international icons and contribute to what may be our only shared story as a nation—our living mythology. By dangling between the images of the First Ladies and her own reflection, the artist has a framework to explore the conundrum that is America, as an individual woman living within that riddle. Painted from life, Elkins uses photos only for details such as First Lady hair styles. Thus, the paintings are fundamentally performative.
Recent exhibitions of The White House Collection include -- Fabrications: Constructing Female Identity, curated by Yulia Tikhonova at Dixon Place in Manhattan; three solo shows at the Fridge in DC -- Homage to Michelle in January 2013, a selection of self-portraits as Michelle created during the first Obama administration; Packin' Heat Talkin' Dirty, which featured the two series Dirty Words and Summer in the City in October 2012; and White House Negligee, an exhibition of The Dressing Table Paintings, in January 2011. i'm lovin' it (Self as Hillary) will be in Viewpoints 2014 at aljira Contemporary Art Center in Newark, NJ in June.
Selections from Studies in Domination were included in 19 Ways of Looking at a Painting at Porch Projects in DC in 2012; in DCwRAP, a solo exhibition at Ground Floor Workshop in Brooklyn in 2011; and in King Me: Studies in the Uncivilized World, curated by Adam Dwight, at the Fridge in DC in 2012.
Primarily self-taught as a visual artist, Elkins has a degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and has worked in all phases of architectural practice. She also studied at the Polytechnic Central London and Sweet Briar College. In 1993 Elkins received a grant, funded by the NEA, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation, to create Why There Are No Great Women Artists: The Children's Room that translated her series of paintings, The Birth of Housework, into architecture. Through her current project Perilous Times, Elkins is developing an architectural context for Studies in Domination. She was the Forsyth Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2008.