Friday, January 10, 2014

Get To Know: Elizabeth Winnel

"Bleuhn" Elizabeth Winnel.

Elizabeth Winnel is one of the phunkiest and phreshest talents to come out of SCAD in recent years. Her style is part pop-art, part photo-realism, and all intricately beautiful. Whether you're taking selfies with her "mouths" or rocking one of her t-shirts, you'll find yourself wanting to interact with her work. Liz offers some sound advice for aspiring art collectors, shouts out where you can find her work, and offers some fun hashtags that are sure to be trending on Twitter in this installment of Get To Know:

CLUTTER FURNISHINGS AND INTERIORS: When did you know you were creative? Was it something you were born with or that was fostered in you?
ELIZABETH WINNEL: My parents always supported my creative endeavors as a child. They lavished me with praise for my artistic projects and efforts, and also provided tools and materials necessary to complete and experiment with. Growing up, we had a craft cupboard in the kitchen and my bedroom had a drafting table for drawing projects. I was also enrolled in many extra circular art classes. I took watercolor painting lessons and also cartooning and drawing classes. My parents were very generous and supportive and they continue to foster my creative goals now. I am very fortunate to have such awesome parents.

CF&I: What do early Elizabeth Winnel’s look like? As an established artist now, would you go back and destroy some of them, a la Gerhard Richter, or is the greater journey in how your art has developed?
EW: Going back and looking at earlier works, something that continues as a thread in my work to this day is figuration. Even as a high school student, regardless of stylization of my paintings or drawings at the time,I was interested in figuration and portraiture. I had not yet figured out how to explain this, but it was there. When I first went to college back in Canada, I felt shy about my inclination to do portraits and figures, in fact, at first I hid it. Despite having free reign to make what I wanted, I made what I thought the teachers wanted to see and what I thought was expected of me as an artist. I assumed it all had to be political or altruistic, rooted in some cause. I struggled to find something to say artistically thinking in that fashion. At home, outside of class, I was making large scale self-portraits though. I felt good about them, but was scared it would come off as vain or narcissistic because I wasn't yet familiar with the grounding, historical and contemporary contexts for this sort of work. I worked up the courage one day to bring them in though and they were well received. It was the beginning of my exploration of self portraiture, which I am still working on today as all of the lip and mouth paintings are my own mouth.

CF&I: Who or what inspires you?
EW: Things that inspire me include color, however it comes. Whether its a painting, a vibrant dress, patterned wallpaper, a sunset, a tube of paint, color swatches at home depot, a well designed interior, etc, I am drawn to the colors and fascinated by how artists and designers use them and how they occur naturally in our environment. I'm also extremely inspired by other artists. I love to hear about their processes and the basis for the decisions made to create their work. Also hard working, motivated artists and designers pump me up. They inspire me to work harder, longer and to put everything I've got to my work. I am so thankful for being surrounded by so many incredible artist friends in Savannah and having another community of amazing artist friends and friends involved in the arts in New York.

CF&I: What draws you to the human mouth?
EW: I am intrigued by the social and cultural connotations of the human mouth. It is a loaded iconographic symbol and signifier. When the mouth is attached to a face as part of a whole portrait, we instinctually read it as part of the entire image/face and the mouth helps signify to us (along with eyes and general expression) what we should be 'reading' or 'getting' from an interaction with this particular portrait or person. When the mouth is decontextualized, fragmented, or removed from the face, how does this experience and interaction change? The purposefulness of presenting ones own mouth as a proposition for consideration and reflection changes the viewer's interaction with this familiar body part. This is what I am interested in continuing to explore through painting.

CF&I: Can you talk about how you name your pieces? They are such beautiful, original, garbled titles.
EW: The pieces are named according to the sound I either made while taking the reference photographs or by the sound I associate with the shape of the mouth. A funny side note to that is, often when people see my work in person, they start to mimic the mouth while viewing it. A lot of people take 'selfies' with the paintings, and mimic the mouth then too. I love watching those moments.

CF&I: Do you have any pieces you will never sell? Is it cool to have your own art in your home or does that feel like work invading your personal space?
EW: I have pieces I will keep from each series of paintings. That is a conscious decision to do so. I learn a lot from each piece, I am deep in thought during the solitary experience of working in a painting studio. Whether it is regarding concepts, ideas, technical or material experiments, each painting has a series of thoughts embedded within it. When I look at one of my paintings, I see the chronology of my decisions and thought processes. I often keep a painting from a series that has a significant idea or concept embedded within the history of making it. My work only invades my space when I am trying to relax. Seeing it in my house, prompts my brain to start planning more projects or think about the works currently in progress. These are all good things, but sometimes you need to shut your brain off and relax, unwind a little. I generally don't keep my work in my immediate living space. It is in my studio at home or the big studio warehouse, AKA The WidowMaker.

CF&I: As an artist, do you have any advice for someone purchasing their first piece of art? How to hang it, what to look for, etc.?
EW: Buy something you are really drawn to, that you REALLY enjoy or feel a connection to. Sometimes learning more about a work from a gallerist or artist will make it even more special or intriguing. Don't be afraid to ask those working in a gallery about the work and the artist. When you buy a piece, contact the artist perhaps, or have the gallery do so, ask if there was anything specific to know in regards to hanging, framing or archival properties of the work (should it be framed or unframed, are there appropriate mounting devices, is there a varnish on the painting, etc). As a collector, it may be important things to know so that you can look after the work and keep it in good shape. Also, once you purchase work, touching base with the artist is always nice. It allows the artist to keep track of the work and helps the artist to get to know the folks who purchased it. I always love it when a collector purchases a piece from the gallery, and they reach out to me to say hello and introduce themselves.

CF&I: Where can we find your art? And, as big old fans, what can we expect next from you?!!?
EW: I have work locally at ShopSCAD, Rook and Raven in London, UK, The Rymer Gallery in Nashville, TN. I recently had works at QF Gallery and Last Rites Gallery in New York. I am also represented by Illozoo for commercial and commissioned works. Folks interested in my work can reach out to any of these galleries for inquiries on availability and prices. Next projects include more commissions, a window display in New York and a big open studio at The Widow Maker in Savannah, GA.

CF&I: Describe the work of Elizabeth Winnel in five words.
EW: Are we thinking buzzwords or hashtags? #Self-portraits #mouths #paintings #decontextualization #fragmentation ;)

Find more on the ultra-talented Ms. Winnel by checking out her beautiful website and checking her out on social media.  

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