Elisabeth Smolarz: The Encyclopedia of Things
Marité and Joe Robinson Strolling Gallery I
February 28–June 7
The Encyclopedia of Things is an ongoing community-based art project by Elisabeth Smolarz that uses photography and storytelling to chronicle the lives of diverse individuals. Since 2014, Smolarz has collaborated with people in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia to make intimate, object-based portraits. Each participant selects meaningful personal items that are arranged for the camera in temporary shrine-like installations. After listening to the stories behind these treasures, Smolarz creates still-life portraits that embody the identities and personal narratives of their owners.
The objects in the printed photographs are rendered at their actual sizes, inviting viewers to relate to them as real things and suggesting the presence of unseen individuals. Although these commonplace objects have special significance in the individual memories they represent, their universality reminds us of our shared human experience.
This exhibition showcases residents of Guttenberg, NJ, a small, but densely populated town in Hudson County. During an artist residency at Guttenberg Arts in 2017-18, Smolarz visited sixty-five residents, interviewed them, and photographed their treasured possessions. The twelve portraits on display represent a cross-section of Guttenberg and contribute to the artist’s collective portrait of a diverse community. To hear some of the participants discuss their significant objects, follow the links underneath each corresponding image.
This exhibition was organized by Guttenberg Arts and is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey expresses their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Javiera Rodriguez, a participant in Elisabeth Smolarz’s The Encyclopedia of Things.
“My heart aches to hear about Javiera’s death. We only spent a short time together, enough to truly connect. She touched me, she taught me, deeply human as she was. We lost one of the kindest and thoughtful people I have ever had the privilege to know, and now to miss. My deepest sympathies to all her loved ones.”
A message from the Director of Guttenberg Arts, our partner on this exhibition:
“The Guttenberg Arts family is beyond sad to say we lost a dear friend, incredible artist and constant supporter of the arts and Hudson County. Javiera Rodriguez was a luminary of the Hudson County Arts scene and one of the first community members who walked through our doors and got involved in our mission. From supporting our artists and publications through the Raven Gallery and participating in our portrait series to creating a wishing tree in Braddock Park, teaching arts and organizing all kinds of unique events and parties she was truly a cornerstone of our community of artists, crafters and rebels. We want to wish all her friends and family our deepest condolences in this incredibly difficult time.”
Director / Guttenberg Arts