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photo — John Groo

Jaanika Peerna is an Estonian-born artist and educator living and working in New York since 1998. Her work encompasses drawing, installation, and performance, often dealing with the theme of transitions in light, air, water and other natural phenomena. For her performances she often involves the audience in participatory reflection on the current climate meltdown. Her art practice stems from the corporeal experience of our existence and reaches towards enhanced awareness of the fragility, interconnectedness and wonder of all life. 


She has exhibited her work and performed extensively in the entire New York metropolitan area as well as in Berlin, Paris, Tallinn, Barcelona, Venice, Moscow, Dubai, Sydney, Canberra, Montreal, and Cologne. Her work is in numerous private collections in the USA and Europe and is part of the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris. Her performance Glacier Elegy was recently acquired by the Glyn Vivian Museum in the UK. Her work is represented by JHB Gallery and ARC Fine Art in the US, HAUS Galerii in Estonia and IdeelART globally. She was awarded the FID Grand Prize in 2016 for her work in drawing, and she was a teaching artist at the Dia Art Foundation for many years. In Fall 2021 a new monograph Glacier Elegies will be published by Terra Nova Press and distributed by MIT Press. 

"I create drawings, installations and situations. My elements are line and water; my materials pencils, vellum and time. I am a vessel gathering subtle and rapturous processes in nature, using experiences and impulses to make my work.  I capture ice turning into water. I let gravity of the melting ice dissolve drawn lines. I swim through thousands of layers of gray air and mark each one down. 

Some of my work is born in the solitude of my studio. But often participatory performances, such as my "Glacier Elegies" project, draw me out from the safe silence of my studio and expand my practice with sound, movement, and chance. With these public performances I make a space for people to co-create and then witness collectively the loss of what has just been created—not unlike humankind who is currently witnessing the loss of vast amounts of glacial ice.

The question I ask to the audience often is: What would you do if you were handed the last piece of natural ice on Earth?” 

— Jaanika Peerna

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