Year of Wonders

Elana Mann

In Residence: Sep 28 – Nov 20, 2020

Exhibition: Nov 19, 2020 – Jan 10, 2021

I want my sculptures to help liberate the voice and body to clamor, clatter, blast. —Elana Mann, Instruments of Accountability

Elana Mann’s Year of Wonders is part of a larger body of work—her sculptural folk instruments, or sono-sculptures—ongoing since 2014. As is common in her practice, and in the history of folk music, these instruments reflect the time period in which they are made. The works in Year of Wonders are born out of the nation’s unfolding political changes, passionate social movements, and the global coronavirus pandemic. They acknowledge the manifold obstacles to our ever-present desire as human beings to be together.

The exhibition is comprised of Mann’s Our work is never done (unfinished business) and Unidentified Bright Object 11–60. The pieces are intended for use in protest spaces, and although each instrument functions differently, they all prioritize a range of sounds and body types to amplify the human voice.

Our work is never done (unfinished business) is modeled on the “Mega-kazoo-horn” originally made by the legendary folk music figure Charles Chase. Chase was an active socialist and brought the instrument to local protests in his hometown of Claremont, CA, in the 1970s. The horn features six speaking tubes, rather than only one, therefore harnessing the power of the collective voice. Mann started the sculpture over a year ago, but in the social-distancing context of COVID-19, the object’s meaning and function have shifted. Rendered temporarily unusable as a musical instrument, it currently operates as more of symbol of collective action. Mann hopes to employ the horn in future demonstrations and marches when it is once again safe to share.

Unidentified Bright Object 11–60 consists of 50 rattles, each made with a distinct turned wood handle and a cast ceramic top containing loose, sound-making material. The ceramic tops are individually adorned with a variety of phrases, such as calls to action (e.g., “Say His Name/Say Her Name”), statements (“Maybe”), celebrations of the collective (“People Power”), or onomatopoeia (“SSSSSS”). Viewers may engage with the rattles however they wish, either visually or by touch.

The instruments in Year of Wonders invite viewers to contemplate the relationships between the individual and community, sound and silence, protest and performance, and how these dyads connect to resistance, equity, and social justice.

Photo Credit: Beth Devillier
3D Tour Capture: Chris Mills

Gallery Notes PDF for “Year of Wonders”


Elana Mann

Los Angeles, California, USA

Elana Mann creates artwork that brings a greater consciousness to the listening and speaking we practice in everyday life. Her artwork bridges sculpture, performance, community engagement, and politics.

Mann has presented her work in museums, galleries, city parks, and buses in the US and globally. Recent solo exhibitions and projects have taken place at Pitzer College Art Galleries (2018), Commonwealth & Council (2016), Baik Art (2016), and the Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design (2013). In addition, Mann curates, collaborates, organizes, and writes. With John Burtle, she co-edited the 2018 performance score anthology Propositional Attitudes: What do we do now? published by Golden Spike Press, followed by a book/performance tour at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; SITE/Less; and the Santa Monica Public Library.

Mann has received numerous awards, including the California Community Foundation Artist Fellowship, the Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Award, an Artist-in-Residence Program at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, the COLA Individual Artist Fellowship, and was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Pitzer College’s ceramics department. She received her BFA with honors from Washington University in St. Louis and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. She lives in Southern California with her husband, designer Jean-Paul Leonard, and their two children.

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Lauren Cross

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Lauren Cross is an artist, curator, and scholar, who holds a BA in Art, Design and Media from Richmond, The American International University in London (2006), England, a MFA in Visual Arts from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA (2010), and a PhD in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies from Texas Woman’s University (2017). She is currently Program Coordinator and Senior Lecturer of the Interdisciplinary Art and Design Studies (IADS) program at the University of North Texas, and founder of the arts non-profit WoCA Projects in Fort Worth, Texas.

Cross has been recognized nationally and internationally for her art practice and community work. Her work has been featured in museums and galleries across the US, and displayed at the 2015 Edinburgh Art Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland (UK). She received the Third Annual Visionary Award by Fort Worth Weekly magazine in 2013, and was named one of Dallas’s “100 Creatives” by the Dallas Observer in 2015. In 2018, Cross was selected as a Visiting Artist for the Center for Creative Connections at the Dallas Museum of Art, and an inaugural Carter Community Artist for the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. In 2019, Cross was recognized as one of thirteen “Women Forwarding Fort Worth” by Fort Worth Magazine. Most recently, Cross curated the retrospective Vicki Meek: 3 Decades of Social Commentary at the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

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