Interview with Artist of the Month Elizabeth Huey

November 27, 2014

Can you share one of your earliest memories?
Growing up, my bedroom window overlooked acres of woodland. At the time, my prized possession was a red dirt bike. I have vivid memories of spending days removing brush and raking leaves to create a web of paths to trek on.

Do you remember when you first started making art? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making art of some kind. As a kid, I would often reenact the day’s activities in a collage, a drawing or a performance with cut paper props. There are times I’ve thought about pursuing a host of other professions – architecture, psychiatry, and history. Thankfully, I’m able to engage with those other fields of study on my own terms within my art.


I feel like I get to time travel and dream simultaneously when I’m looking at your work. How do your images come together and do you plan everything out or allow it to evolve naturally?
I think a lot about the capacity of painting to compress a series of moments into a single image — to act as an accordion of time. I usually begin painting with an abstract surface. Sometimes those surfaces remain in the studio for days or months. At a certain point, I envision one or more photographic images coalescing with the marks and colors. I do plan to a certain degree but painting for me is like beginning a road trip with a tentative destination. I keep looking around and I’m open to the signs as I drive. If there is a necessary detour or a tempting exit I’m okay with steering in another direction.


Are you inspired by the religious or spiritual?
I’ve always been compelled by unseen forces and I’m fascinated by the multitude of ways humankind manifests their beliefs in rituals and acts of devotion.


It seems like you often have a set of characters that you use in a specific body of work. Who are making appearances in your most recent work?
My interest in water as a curative force has driven me to investigate early mineral baths and spas. Most of the settings include rivers, pools, tubs and rooms with lake views. Gestures are prominent as figures engage in acts of restoration and healing – swimming, dancing poolside, conversing and meandering amidst natural springs.


You have a huge collection of source material that you pull from. When did you start collecting images and why do you think it’s become such an integral part of your process? I’ve been collecting images for the last ten years but in the past 5 I’ve become obsessed with owning the original slides and prints I paint from. I return to them more often and I see details I miss with small pictures online. I also begin to see patterns in the images which I decide to add to the collection.


The newness of the internet is still apparent to me even though it has quickly become quite commonplace in our daily lives. I’m always interested in how it affects art – the way we make it, share it and look at it. I feel like you are an artist that uses it well, in terms of the way you share your inspiration of real life moments and found source material through Instagram. Can you share your feelings about “using it” these days? I started using Instagram a few years ago in an attempt to see my paintings, found photographs and snapshots next to each other. When the found photos are seen, somehow I feel they are given new life, resuscitated. A dream is to have them all hung together in the museum of orphan squares. I’m appreciative for the extraordinary artists I’ve met through IG and that people continue to witness my process as it unfolds.


What has been a recent inspiration that you didn’t expect? Last year, I took a road trip with a friend outside of Paris. In two days, we saw Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, the Bayeux Tapestries and the Normandy coastline where you can still see the sunken battle ships from the WWII Invasion. All very different visual experiences but each one continues to resurface in my memory.

Do you have a favorite spot in the world?
Apparently, it’s my studio because it’s hard for me to leave and I rarely want to be anywhere else..


What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a few large-scale paintings that more directly incorporate photography as well as a number of new pieces that are sculptural.

If you could have any superpower what would it be?
I would love to be able to travel through space and time by twitching my nose and to clean my house with the wave of a wand.


what astrological sign are you? do you relate to it? if yes, how?
Pisces. Yes, most of it applies. It also might explain my continual preoccupation with water.


who are some of your favorite artists currently?
That changes all the time but right now I’m thinking a lot about the early interiors of Vuillard. Been also looking a lot at Giacometti, Jean Arp, R.B. Kitaj and this very small Joseph Yoakum catalogue.

Do you have any favorite quotes or mottos?

Guston said, “When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting you walk out.”


What would be your last meal before execution?
I don’t think I’d be able to eat. It’s been a while since I’ve had a cigarette so I think I’d smoke a couple of American Spirits and ask to make a few phone calls.


See the Cinders special edition letterpress prints by Elizabeth Huey HERE