Elizabeth van Lent

…is an artist from Fairbanks, Alaska. In her work, van Lent uses themes of nature, magic, and myth to create visual and written narratives from both her physical environment and imagined world. In May 2017, van Lent graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a Bachelor in Fine Art with an Emphasis in Writing.

Artist Statement

Observing the natural world while maintaining an awareness of mythology brings out the magic of everyday life. This is profoundly noticeable in Alaska, my home state. Alaska; where I can study the relationship between humankind and Nature, which in turn helps me to discover, acknowledge, and understand my place in this world.

It is my intention to connect with the community of Alaska through my work by sharing personal representations of the animals and plants that are so integral to this place, lifestyle, and identity. Through these organisms, Alaskans are connected. And it is because Alaska is a place of community, nature, and possibility that work such as mine can be well-received. Here, I am a part of a cycle of giving: giving art, giving thanks, and giving connection.

The microscopic details of all living things reveal themselves through ink. In my work, an extreme amount of detail and texture are represented in the flora and fauna I depict. Through this close examination of my subject, I honor the complexities of life. The simplicity of a single medium, Sumi ink on Bristol paper, and mostly monochromatic images work together to balance the extreme process of observation, study, and rendering that forms my practice and results in scientific illustrations with a touch of mysticism.

The van Lents

In the year 1640, the Dutch sailed from Amsterdam and arrived in New Amsterdam (New York). It was an accidental beaching of a Dutch vessel on a sandbar at high tide that resulted in a friendship between the Dutch and the Delaware or Lenape natives on land they called "Sachoes." 

From The History of the Lent (van Lent) Family, Nelson Burton Lent writes:

 "The Dutch soon learned the [native] language and the settlement increased. The [indigenous people] proposed to sell the Dutch a tract of land especially for the use of the settlement, and July 10, 1641, a council was held and the chiefs of other clans united and an agreement was made and the boundary of the land designated. It lay east of Annsville Creek, taking the land east and south of where Peekskill is located. April, 1643, the Dutch paid for their land in goods as follows: 8 guns, 9 blankets, 5 coats, 14 fathoms of daffel cloth, 14 kettles, 40 fathoms of black cloth, 40 fathoms of white wampum cloth, 2 anchors of rum, 5 half vats of strong beer, 6 earthen jugs, 12 shirts, 50 pounds of powder, 30 bars of lead, 18 hatchets, 18 hoes, 14 knives, 1 small coat, 6 fathoms of strong water cloth, 6 pairs of stockings, and 6 tobacco boxes. For the above, the [natives] sold them seven thousand two hundred acres of land, and on this land, the Dutch lived in peace and harmony with the [original people]" (7). 

"Van" is Dutch, meaning “from”, and Lent was a town in Holland.  A one Richard Abrahamson took the name of "van Lent," 1,800 acres of the newly traded land, and unknowingly began one of the most widely dispersed families in the United States. 

So many centuries later, the 1,800 acres of van Lent land has been broken into pieces, sold, renamed and ultimately lost. Also lost is the name Abrahamson adopted, as all of the van Lents have since removed the "van" from their name. 

The inherited history of names has the potential to reveal other worlds that have long been forgotten. By reclaiming one of my historical family names, I carry with me the mysterious stories, the hidden truths, and the mythologies of my Dutch heritage.