elise kendrot visual
iowa city, iowa | interviewed 2-19-2002

biographical sketch | interview clips

elise kendrot

"Salt Columns "


(click image for larger view)

Salt Columns, copyright 2001 Elise Kendrot
Salt Columns

copyright © 2001 Elise Kendrot | All Rights Reserved

interview clips (mp3 audio & text)

9/11: listen (0:55/379KB) | read

Culture: listen (0:50/343KB) | read

"Salt Columns": listen (0:48/331KB) | read

Viewer Response: listen (1:04/436KB) | read

I ended up watching it on the couch, and I was looking at the image on the screen, and for that half hour before they fell, I was like, Oh my god, they're going to fall down. They're going to fall down. And I was like, You guys, you don't understand—that's like our entire campus being in those buildings. I felt like I was re-playing something I had already seen when they started falling. And I started dry-heaving.

Especially after they fell, I started having these visions in my head of walking down the street and being on the subway, and seeing faces—people that I was around for four years, and they'd become familiar. And how many hundreds and thousands of people did I walk by. I just was like, I know I know somebody. And when I finally was able to get hold of somebody, I can't believe it, but no one on my block was killed. And I just can't believe that, because there were so many people that worked there. I felt very isolated by being out here, being so far away.

back to clips | top

One of the things I found really disturbing was as soon as it happened, somebody was starting to use the graphics. Somebody's job was to do graphics, and somebody's job was to get music. And I found that revolting, very upsetting.

There are things that I look at in our culture and I'm just sickened by. And I think that this event has given a little bit more of a razor edge to those kind of things. And yet, on the other hand, there are things that I embrace so much, and take for granted. And those things have also been heightened. I was just thinking about it the other day. I was walking into studio, and it was like, This is what my day is; the only reason it's this is because I live in the country I live in. This could be a totally different thing. And so, it goes back and forth.

back to clips | top

"Salt Columns"
I think one of the main reasons why I started using salt is that it's such a container of the word grief for me. And that it's such an excellent material to use metaphorically because of that.

I had to add the water so that the salt would dissolve enough, and basically rebuild itself. As the water evaporated, it would re-crystallize and then become more structural. So, in a way, it was destroying to build. And they became very rigid, very hard. And they weighed 350 pounds each, and I had to knock them down to move them. And that was something very strange to do—to take my sledgehammer to them. And I did that by myself. It was something that I knew I didn't want anybody around.

back to clips | top

Viewer Response
The floor ended up being the most fascinating to me, because it was so much about that idea of, This has not left; it's just gone some place else and re-grown. And it was just so beautiful—what happened on the floor. These big flat crystals just sparkled, so I was really caught up in the visual aspect of it.

One of the things that it did was brought people to a stillness. A stillness that opens up kind of connections or relationships—people looking at this and seeing different things. Seeing Lot's wife, seeing columns, seeing two figures next to each other, seeing this dark stoic straight objects and then this kind of spilling of beauty down below. Beautiful and sad—those two things kind of came up a lot. But I think what I want people to leave it with is that idea of this connection to something that they don't quite understand, and that realization of something that they don't understand.

back to clips | top

biographical sketch

Elise Kendrot was born in Binghamton, New York, in 1974. She grew up in Windsor, New York, and has one older brother. With no TV in the home, she was an avid reader and liked to make things.

She earned a B.F.A. in sculpture from Syracuse University, New York. She has experience in grantwriting and public relations for non-profit organizations, and has taught art in various settings. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, where she is also a Teaching Assistant in the sculpture area. She lives in Iowa City.


artist's statement

For the past year and a half, I have used salt as a sculptural medium in conjunction with other materials such as cloth and metal. I am drawn to salt because of its many physical, emotional, spiritual and historical connotations. Salt is corrosive and yet it preserves. It stings and yet it heals. In most religions, salt symbolizes truth and permanence, and in many cultures it is used to ward off evil. Wars have been fought over salt, and salt has paid for wars. Yet salt has also set people free. Salt is in our blood, our sweat, our tears…we would die without it.

I lived in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey, from 1996 to 2000. I lived eight blocks from the Hudson River. My street, York Street, led down to the waterfront directly across from the World Trade Center. During my time in Jersey City, there were many moments when the Twin Towers helped me to steer home.

Salt Columns was made in early November 2001, and like many of my sculptures it is about deterioration and transformation. It has changed, and it will continue changing as time passes. When they were first exhibited, each salt column weighed three hundred and fifty pounds. For the Infinite Respect/Enduring Dignity conference (Jan. 25-26, 2002 in Iowa City), I felt it was fitting to make the pillars less heavy—grief leaves a healing residue, but only when one allows it to pass.