BELFAST — “Uplift,” a multi-media exploration of the act of lifting by artist Nina Elder, opens at Waterfall Arts, 256 High St., on Friday, Dec. 10 (National Human Rights Day). During her residency at Waterfall Arts in the summer of 2021 (with support from The Onion Foundation), Elder created eight large-scale drawings, which will be on display for the exhibition. Her inspiration began as she witnessed the care, collaboration, technology and resources that are used to move yachts from water to land in Belfast’s harbor.

Created using marine motor lubricant and industrial pulp mill waste—materials found or used in other non-recreational ways in Maine—these drawings abstract what is being uplifted, and are meditations on the kinds of invisible emotional lifting we all do.

The attention to the technologies of cradling and carrying boats in the harbor subsequently led Elder to create “Overburden,” a video installation that is debuting as part of this exhibition. By definition, to “overburden” is to give someone a weight that is too great to carry. Additionally, an “overburden” refers to the geologic material that is removed to expose a desired underground mineral.

“Overburden” documents Elder’s attempt to care for and physically carry pieces of geologic materials in her home state of Arizona. She uses hand-sewn devices, accentuating both her strength and her softness, to uplift and dignify the pulverized, leached, melted, dumped and forgotten rocks.

Waterfall Arts Program Director Amy Tingle said, “Nina’s work is a direct response to the extraordinary weight in our current world—so many of us feel overwhelmed, overtired, nearly incapacitated by the burdens of the pandemic and the systemic issues it has unearthed. Nina created from a space of true heartache as she witnessed firsthand the destruction of land caused by greed and cruelty, yet she still managed to ask and attempt to answer the question: ‘what if recognizing internal resiliency and healthy interdependence becomes the hallmark of this challenging time?’ These questions are crucial: Can we help someone else carry a weight that is dragging them down? Can we find beauty in the hoisting, joy in levitation, can we be awed by the miracle of understanding that not one single organism on this entire planet is doing it alone?”

Elder creates projects that reveal humanity’s dependence on and interruption of the natural world. With a focus on changing cultures and ecologies, she advocates for collaboration, fostering relationships between institutions, artists, scientists and diverse communities. Her work takes many forms, including drawings, performative lectures, pedagogy and critical writing, long term community-based projects, and public art. Find out more about her work at ninaelder.com.

Launched in 2000, Waterfall Arts is a community arts center that offers resources to arts enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. The public is welcome to engage in the arts through classes, exhibitions, art events, performances, public art projects, open studios (in clay, glass, print, and darkroom photography) and more. For more information, visit waterfallarts.org or call 207-338-2222.

Artist Nina Elder joined Waterfall Arts for its artist residency program in the summer of 2021, with support from the Onion Foundation, and exhibits eight large-scale drawings and debuts a video installation produced following the residency. Photo by Chris Battaglia/Waterfall Arts