2020 MFA Alumni Thesis Exhibition

Elena Makansi

The Endless Forest (The End of the Forest)

As my maternal grandmother succumbed to illness, I began taking photographs of the tree shadows in her neighborhood. The shadows felt like a manifestation of her passing into the spirit dimension. My grief in losing my grandmother felt somehow faraway and disarticulated, like falling and scattered leaves in autumn. I feel the disappearance of forests in a similar way. I began to connect the grief I feel for my grandmother, and for all of my ancestors, to the grief I feel about climate change, deforestation, and extinction. Phantom-like but no less real, this grief and the shadows I draw are signifiers of presence, energy, and spiritual connection to earth.

The Endless Forest (The End of the Forest) is a psycho-spiritual landscape and material exploration of these different manifestations of grief. In traversing a shadowed, impossibly moonlit forest, the viewer encounters moments of magic as often as moments of darkness, moments of recognition as often as moments of abstraction. The forest becomes a metaphor for life’s interrelatedness and enmeshment, and for the journey we take in our minds as we attempt to comprehend loss. The mind and body are enmeshed. Processing ecological grief requires symbiosis between the material and immaterial. In confronting what we cannot grasp, and reckoning with what we do not know, dark ecology offers a possible path forward: face the dark and integrate the shadow. As the light and shadow interplay and fade in and out on the paper, so do the light and shadow entangle in my psyche. The way out is through.