I am an artist who reveres the tactility of objects and the ephemeral nature of performance. Through the use of garment, sculpture, video and performance, I create a world where another logic and another set of rules can take over in order to re-imagine feminine longing and desire. I evoke the uncanny or fairy tale as a means towards reinterpretation of the female body through immersion in another history.

My pieces begin with the manipulation of materials into sculptural objects that also function as props in my performances and videos. In durational performance, my props are timekeepers that document change. While not being performed with, my objects stand on their own as sculpture with an implied body or action.

I draw from a personal bank of childhood imagery, iconography, and script, and desecrate them through play. By invoking repetition and juxtaposition in unexpected settings, innocent, adolescent pastimes become macabre struggles to maintain stability.

My current body of work is an exploration of adolescent girlhood romance and a confrontation of how fiction fails. I have embodied the romantic heroine of my childhood who haunts my mind. She is strangely recognizable yet othered — stuck in the threshold between adolescence and womanhood, and unable to let go of the supposed to be. My relationship with this heroine shifts as she is both resilient and pathetic.

As I look critically at these ideals, I have begun conflating romance of traditional novels with pop culture telling the same stories. The work stemmed from the ending of my six year relationship with a woman, and examining my own romantic expectations. My compulsion to make a homosexual relationship fit into heterosexual narratives of romance has made the disparity between the ideal and its impossibility even more urgent. My work addresses that such ideals are faulty but also acknowledges my ever-present longing for them.

Though I begin with the personal as impetus, my aim is to draw viewers into a relationship with their own histories and ideals. While my work is grounded in materiality, performance is essential in establishing a closeness with viewers through presence. I inhabit historical characters as a counterpoint to this closeness, allowing the fiction of the archetypal longing maiden to prompt viewers’ own fantasies, memories, and conflicted desires.


Hope Esser is a multidisciplinary artist that works in the realms of performance, video, sculpture, and costume. She graduated with Honors from Oberlin College in 2007 with a double major in Studio Art and Art History. She received her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2012. She was recently awarded the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship, the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship, and the Ox-Bow Joan Mitchell Scholarship. Originally from New York City, she currently resides in Chicago.


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