Photograph by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

Elizabeth Renstrom

Born 1990 Hartford, CT


Elizabeth Renstrom keeps a diary. Out in public she’s always writing things down or sketching in a small black notebook. She fills these books with ideas. Every new photograph or series Renstrom comes up with in her mind she physically maps out every possibility for the work on paper in order to realize her vision. As Renstrom said to MATTE Magazine, “It just helps me work out the notion that maybe I’m not crazy because if it is on paper it most certainly can be created in real life too”.

“Face Time” 2012

elizabeth renstrom

Sketch for “Face Time” 2012


Renstrom typically works within one series of photos at a time, constructing environments in-studio to be photographed.  “Much of my work is about an obsessive control over the components I’m building even if it looks like a complete mess. Working in the studio allows me the time and space I need to have ‘sculptures’ or scenarios come to fruition then documented in a formal way,” says Renstrom.

“Mermaid” 2012

“Sticker Book” 2011

“Mermaid” 2012

Set of “Alien Resurrectionz” 2012

“Cursed” 2011


Renstrom’s newest series entitled “Waxy Chunks” was recently featured in Vice Magazine’s photography issue. It’s a spooky shamanistic take on 1990s nostalgia complete with instructions for a séance. As Renstrom puts it, “I guess you could say I’m about as nostalgic as anyone my age for those defining years, but mostly I’m interested in the AMOUNT of nostalgia I see on the internet and elsewhere for that time period”. She recognized a thirst on the internet for a specific time period, and used the demand of the audience to shape the process of her art-making. “When I began ‘Waxy Chunks’ my main goal was to make photos that looked very tumble-able. What is appealing on blogs? What images do people continually curate and proliferate online? A huge answer was the ’90s”.

“Death of Slime” 2012

“Spellz” 2012

“SBURNS” 2012

“Annoint” 2012

“Hero Worship” 2012

Renstrom finds our generation’s wistfulness for the ’90s to be premature. “It’s like we didn’t have the decency as a generation to reflect and look back on it in 20 years, we had to commemorate and relive our youth 5 years after it happened”.

“Charismatic Pussy” 2013

In these pictures there is both straightforward appreciation of junior high and the wariness of its regurgitation. Renstrom’s work views the ’90s through the filter of now and indulges our want for then. —MATTE Magazine for CCNY