Elena Dorfman is featured online in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) artist invitational interview series Artists Respond. LACMA invites artists to create a work inspired by its current exhibitions exploring connections to their artistic practice. Dorfman chose Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School, on view through June 7, as her point of departure, and, in particular, Thomas Cole’s painting The Savage State, one of his five-part series, The Course of Empire. Dorfman’s response was Bell Avenue, 2014, a photographic construct from her new series, River.
Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire, made between 1833 and 1836, chronicles the rise and fall of an imaginary city, and serves as an allegory for the cyclical progression of civilization from a state of barbarism through advanced social and cultural development, and eventual descent into ruin. Like Cole, for whom the scene functioned as an index to feelings and associations, and who wrote that to create his compositions he “sat down amidst his sketches, made selections, and combined them”, Dorfman’s photographs culminate from the collision of scenes in nature both real and imagined. For Dorfman, The Savage State offered a framework for Bell Avenue, as she sifted through thousands of images of the Los Angeles River shot over the course of years. With this Response image, she reconstructs a collage of time, place, and encountered elements to tell a contemporary story that includes the elements of movement and drama.