Amy Elkins is a visual artist primarily working in photography and has spent the past decade researching, creating and exhibiting work that explores the multifaceted nature of masculine identity as well as the psychological and sociological impacts of incarceration. Her approach is series-based, steeped in research and oscillates between formal, conceptual and documentary.
Elkins’ earlier work, Wallflower (2006-2008), depicts intimate and formal bust shots of young, bare-chested men juxtaposed in front of floral patterns and explores the nuances of masculine vulnerability. She went on to investigate the more aggressive and competitive aspects of male identity and athleticism through projects Elegant Violence (2009-2010), portraying bruised and bloodied Ivy League rugby players posturing in daylight studios moments after each game and Danseur (2012), a series examining gender stereotypes associated with dance.
In 2009 Elkins began corresponding with several men serving life and death row sentences throughout the United States and the project Black is the Day, Black is the Night emerged. Over a span of seven years, she created images attempting to showcase the unexpectedly vulnerable aspects of her pen pals' incarcerated lives. Using appropriated materials, Elkins created pixelated portraits degraded using an image loss ratio of years behind bars to years alive as well as blurred landscapes of memories shared in letters, composited to account for the number of years each had spent in prison. These pieces, created to illustrate the psychological impacts of long-term isolation and capital punishment, were shown side by side with barely visible text pieces created out of poem excerpts, objects constructed under direction from her pen pals, drawings, and other ephemera. The project, which spanned from 2009-2016, opened Elkins’ eyes to critical flaws within the criminal justice system in America and led to the creation of several additional bodies of work exploring race, identity and capital punishment, including The Golden State (2017), a series of twenty-six composite portraits created using mugshots of the 746 predominantly male death row inmates in California. The portraits, organized and layered with identical opacities by last name, confront the undeniable racial makeup of California's death row (where over 65% are minorities*) as well as the inevitable loss of identity created by mass incarceration.
Recently Elkins has been working with transgender men and masculine identifying individuals in urban and rural Georgia for two ongoing portrait projects confronting social projections surrounding gender, athleticism and the human form.
Through all of these projects, Elkins’ consistent goal is to create art that engages the world to challenge and discuss their own assumptions surrounding masculinity, vulnerability and incarceration in our ever-changing social and political landscape.
Elkins received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has been exhibited and published both nationally and internationally, including at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, Austria; the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; North Carolina Museum of Art; among others. Elkins has been awarded The Lightwork Artist-in-Residence in Syracuse, NY in 2011, the Villa Waldberta International Artist-in-Residence in Munich, Germany in 2012, the Aperture Prize and the Latitude Artist-in-Residence in 2014 and The Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant in 2015.
Her first book Black is the Day, Black is the Night won the 2017 Lucie Independent Book Award. It was Shortlisted for the 2017 Mack First Book Award and the 2016 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Prize as well as listed as one of the Best Photobooks of 2016 by TIME, Humble Arts Foundation, Photobook Store Magazine and Photo-Eye among others.
Elkins co-founded Women in Photography (WIPNYC) with Cara Phillips in 2008. In 2009 WIPNYC launched its first grant program and has since given seventeen-thousand dollars in funds and materials to support women artists.
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SOLO & TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS:
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, Vita Arts Center, Ventura, CA.
Amy Elkins: Photographs of Contemporary Masculinity, Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion,
Orange Coast College. Costa Mesa. CA
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, Benaki Museum, Athens Photo Festival. Athens, Greece
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, Cress Gallery, Chattanooga, TN
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, International Festival of Photography, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX
In Position: Amy Elkins & Jona Frank, DeSoto Gallery, Los Angeles
Black is the Day, Black is the Night, Aperture Gallery, New York
Looking & Looking: Jen Davis & Amy Elkins, Light Work Gallery, Syracuse, NY
Elegant Violence, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York
Wallflower, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York
SELECT GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women in Louisiana, Newcomb Museum, New Orleans, LA
A Recounting, Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Due Process, Goethe Institut Ludlow 38, New York, NY.
Notions of Home, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY.
Man Up, Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
Inside/Outside: Prison Narratives, Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
Performance: Contemporary Photography from the Douglas Nielsen Collection Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ.
Recent Acquisitions, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Andy Warhol and his Contemporaries: an urban milieu, Flaten Art Museum, Northfield, MN
The Sports Show, Minneapolis Institute of Arts Museum, Minneapolis, MN
Homesick, Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA.
Incognito: The Hidden Self-Portrait, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY
The Portrait. Photography as a Stage: From Robert Mapplethorpe to Nan Goldin. Curated by Peter Weiermair, The Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria
The High Museum Permanent Collection, Atlanta, GA.
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Light Work Permanent Collection, Syracuse, NY
Aperture Foundation Permanent Collection, New York, NY
SFMoMA Research Library
National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum
Special Collections at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
HAAS Arts Special Collections Yale University
AWARDS AND RESIDENCIES:
Lucie Independent Book Prize
MACK First Book Awards- Shortlist
Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards - Shortlist
Diane Marek Visiting Artist, Chattanooga, TN
Peter S Reed Foundation Grant
Aperture Portfolio Prize
Latitude Artist-in-Residence, Chicago, IL
Villa Waldberta International Artist-in-Residence, Munich, Germany
Lightwork Artist-in-Residence, Syracuse, NY.
Ollman, Leah. “Challenging Assumptions about Men.” Los Angeles Times, 23, Nov. 2018: E2. Print
Beers, Joel. “Amy Elkins’ ‘Photographs of Contemporary Masculinity’ at OCC Shows the New Male Gaze.” OC Weekly, 21, Nov. 2018. Web
Ollman, Leah. “Critics’ Choices: Amy Elkins: Photographs of Contemporary Masculinity.” Los Angeles Times 18, Nov. 2018: E10. Print
Brook, Pete. “Prison Index.” Aperture. Issue 230: 104. Print
Cornwall, Debi and Amy Elkins. “Confronting Incarceration’s Destructive Invisibility.” Epistem: Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, 2018. 20-33. Print
Alexander, Andrew. “Photographer Amy Elkins' Work Explores Themes of Incarceration.” ArtsATL, 10 Jan. 2018. Web
Vilela, Bruno. World, Image, World. Notebook of Critical Reflections on Photography. Belo Horizonte, BR: FIF, 2018. 194-199. Print
Baricco, Alessandro and Scuola Holden. La Seconda Luna. 2nd vol., Bologna, IT: Zanichelli, 2018. 476-477. Print
Cuddehe, Mary. “A Matter of Life: The Death Penalty as a Conservative Conundrum.” Harper’s.March. 2017: 60. Print
Bogert, Jeremiah M. “Work by Women Photographers in Santa Monica Exhibit Bound by Dedication to Social Justice.” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 2017. Web
Blight, Daniel C. “Amy Elkins Black Is the Day Black Is the Night.” 1000 Words, 2017. Web
Hallberg, Garth Risk. A Field Guide to the North American Family. New York, NY: Alfred A.Knopf, 2017: 87. Print
Elkins, Amy. Black Is the Day, Black Is the Night. 1st ed., Oxnard, CA: Self Published, 2016. Print
TIME Photo Dept. TIME Selects The Best Photobooks of 2016. Time. Nov. 2016. Web
Iaboni, Lisa. “Blurred Lives.” The Marshall Project, 3 June 2018. Web
Osberg, Annabel. “Tough / Tender: Amy Elkins’ Male Protagonists.” Artillery Magazine. May/June 2016: 40-41. Print
Calkin, Jessamy. “Soldier of Fortune.” Telegraph Magazine. April 2016: 42. Print
Cobb, Jelani. “The Matter Of Black Lives.” The New Yorker. Mar. 14. 2016: 34. Print
Asboe, Eric. “All Hands.” Bad at Sports, Feb. 2016. Web
Cotton, Charlotte. Public/Private/Portrait. Brooklyn, NY: Romke Hoogwaerts, 2016. 22. Print
Griffin, Jonathan. “Ed Ruscha: L.A.'s Artist.” Financial Times Weekend Magazine, 30 Oct. 2015: 24-28. Print
Elkins, Amy. “The Back Page.” Photograph. Jan/Feb. 2015: 120. Print
Fulford, Jason and Gregory Halpern. The Photographer’s Playbook. New York, NY: Aperture Foundation, 2014. 92. Print
McLaren, Stephen and Bryan Formhals. Photographers’ Sketchbook. London, GB: Thames & Hudson, 2014. 80-85. Print
Bittner, Michele. “Can Recidivism Rates Be Lowered through Internet Coding?” Nonprofit Quarterly, 3 Dec. 2014. Web
Farago, Jason. “Culture - Pictures at an Execution: The Condemned in Art.” BBC, Oct. 2014. Web
Brook, Pete. “Amy Elkins' Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night.” Prison Photography, 16 Dec. 2013. Web
Brook, Pete. “Amy Elkins: Black Is the Day, Black Is the Night.” Daylight, 10 Dec. 2013. Web
Little, David Eugene. The Sports Show: Athletics as Image and Spectacle. Minneapolis, MN: University Of Minnesota Press, 2012. 130-131. Print
Eskenazi, Jason. The Americans List. By the Glow of the Jukebox. New York, NY: Red Hook Editions, 2012. 81. Print
Steacy, Will. Photographs Not Taken a Collection of Photographers Essays. (n.p.): Daylight Community Arts Foundation, 2012. 53-54. Print
Sullivan, Bill. “Amy Elkins” Contact Sheet. No 167. 2012: 10-15. Print
Lavalette, Shane. “Looking and Looking.” Contact Sheet. No. 165. 2012: 1-22. Print
Elkins, Amy. “Photographers Studio: Amy Elkins.” Conveyor. No.3. 2012: 110. Print
Aram, Kim. “Amy Elkins” Blink. Aug. 2012: 45-54. Print
Jackson, Mitchell S. “Oversoul.” Vice. June. 2012: 70-77. Print
Barthes, Roland. “Double Zoo.” Harper’s. Dec. 2011: 22-23. Print
Elkins, Amy. “15 Minutes.” Vision. Oct. 2010: 188-195. Print
Matt, Gerald, and Peter Weiermair. The Portrait: Photography as a Stage. (n.p.): Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2009. 72-77. Print
Kraciuk, Bartek, “Women in Photography.” K Mag. March. 2009: 19. Print
Elkins, Amy. Beyond This Place: 269 Intervals and Other Various Assemblages. 1st ed., Brooklyn, NY: Self Published, 2008. Print
Feinstein, Jon. The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography. New York, NY: Humble Arts Foundation, 2008. 48. Print
Jimmy Moffatt. “Growing Wallflowers.” NY Arts. Vol.13. Jan/Feb. 2008: 85. Print
Dominus, Susan. “Tense Times at Bronxville High.” The New York Times Magazine. Sept.30.2007: 66-71. Print
Holtzman, Anna. “Amy Elkins” Eyemazing. Issue 1, 2007: 100-107. Print