Can human impact be visualized?


Nina creates large-scale, realistic drawings as an element of her research process. Based on historic and sometimes classified photographs as well as those resulting from her own fieldwork, these drawings depict the geologic interruptions and human-made destruction of specific places.  The drawings are made using site-specific pigments, including radioactive charcoal, pulverized guns, glacial silt and stardust. The drawings are often cut or incised, removing elements of the image to comment on the voids caused by extractive industries.


  • Nina Elder: What Endures, SITE Santa Fe, NM

  • THE SCORE, Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art  

  • Nina Elder: Accumulations, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 

  • Hot Spots: Radioactivity and the Landscape, Krannert Art Museum, IL and University of Buffalo Art Museum, NY

  • Deep Time Lab with Nina Elder, University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque 

  • Species in Peril, 516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM

  • Inner Orbit, form + concept, Santa Fe, NM 

  • 66 Mile Radius, Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, NM  

  • New Works: Nina Elder, Central Features, Albuquerque, NM

  • Atomic Landscapes, IDEA Space, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO 

  • Nina Elder: Overlook, Rule Gallery, Denver, CO 

  • Marred Landscapes, Oats Park Arts Center, Fallon, NV

  • Landlessness, Ortega y Gasset Projects, Brooklyn, NY

  • Art for a Silent Planet: Blaustein, Elder, and Long, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM

  • Atomic Surplus, Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM

  • Taos Contemporary, Center for Visual Arts, Denver, CO

  • Exhaust, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM


As a counterbalance to the exclusivity she observed in the conspicuous care of yachts, Nina made these drawings while considering what else is carried in more private realms. Created using marine motor lubricant and industrial pulp mill waste—materials that point to certain non-recreational realities in Maine—these drawings abstract what is uplifted and are meditations on the kinds of invisible emotional lifting we all do.


bond and breakS  

This series of drawings depicts knotted ropes, mended anchor lines, and fraying nets. As metaphors of living through climate devastation and social upheaval, these images revel in the complexities of dependency and brokenness. They question what tethers humanity during periods of extreme change and how we might exist with what remains.



Made in conjunction with a video installation, each drawing in this series depicts a single shattered stone that has been unsuccessfully put back together.   



This series of drawings intimately explores a frayed strap. Though its use as a powerful object has been rendered obsolete, the beauty of its destruction is evident. 



This series of artworks utilize stream of consciousness list-making as a way to think through categories of information and concepts. The lists explore phenomenon, responding to questions including “What protects? What is fleeting? What is exponential?” The emerging words become large 2D artworks with the words meticulously incised into pigment laden paper. 



Nina explores the Kennecott Corporation, and how their multinational extractivism has shaped the earth. These are drawn using graphite, dirt, and pulverized detritus that she collected from the original Kennecott Mine in Alaska. 



Nina’s drawings of clear cut forests and lumber processing reveal some of the most ubiquitous landscapes in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Drawn using incinerated industrial waste from pulp mills, these focus the viewer on the textures and scale of deforestation.



Meteorites are sacred to indigenous people around the globe, yet they are collected by museums as scientific specimens. Nina engaged with indigenous culture bearers around the world to learn about their desire to have the meteorites returned. These drawings depict the voids that are left by scientific colonialism.



Using classified historic photographs of nuclear tests as source material, these drawings depict the secretive emergence of nuclearism in New Mexico. Drawn using radioactive charcoal from forest fires in areas surrounding nuclear test sites, the materiality of the work challenges the amnesia and disregard that is often felt towards the land based legacy of the atomic era.



Piles of rocks are one of humanity's most indelible marks on the planet. Not only are they geologic reliquaries, but also documents of human greed. Nina questions if these are disaster sites, or monuments.



During a series of research trips to the Arctic’s farflung radar sites, Nina traced her father’s path as a Cold War-era government contractor. These drawings depict now-obsolete radar station that once linked Alaska’s extremes with the lower 48. These drawings explore metaphors of communication and interruption.