Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites is a painter creating self-portraits, re-imagining herself in abstraction, flowers and nature. Enjoy the interview and explore the process!
1. Your paintings are a reflection of you, how do you make that connection?
I began this series about 2 years ago. I was in a serious artistic slump and hadn’t painted for almost a year. It was a time when I felt like the world was telling me that I was old, no longer had any use, and had lost my looks. I wanted to say back to the world, “Screw you I’m a flower !” It was then that I decided to do a series entitled , “Self Portrait as a Flower.” I wanted to paint a single flower that would be taken out of its natural element and be placed on a background that would abstractly reflect what was going on in my life at the time.
I remember after I finished, “Self Portrait as a Flower #5″ I didn’t want anyone to see it. That piece made me feel like I was standing stark naked in Time Square. It finally dawned on me that others can’t see what I see when looking at my work. It’s not like they can crawl inside my head.
Although they are self portraits, I believe that they could represent anyone. We are all flowers in the process of blooming. I think that people need to start seeing their own beauty. There are too many people in this world that don’t think positively of themselves and because of that they don’t treat themselves or others well. I strongly believe that we are all connected.
2. What are the most important aspects of your art process?
I generally just let my subconscious be the guide with this series. I pick a flower that I feel particularly drawn to at the time. I don’t know why I am drawn to the flower, but it doesn’t really matter. I try not to think too much when painting. Every action is merely a reaction to the previous action. I don’t want to over think it too much.
I learn a tremendous amount about myself through this series. I can’t always see what I am saying in a piece after I’ve completed it. Sometimes it can take a good 6 months. Other times I can see it while the piece is in progress, but that’s rare. Whatever the case, sometimes I am shocked by what is coming out. I look at a painting and say to myself, “Oh God, this painting illustrates such and such. I didn’t even know that I felt that way.”
Recently I made a big change in the way I lay the paint down. It put my work into another realm and I’m highly pleased with the results. The process I describe as being a controlled mess whereas my earlier works were highly controlled. Now I lay really wet layers of paint down and let other colors bleed into them. I lay the paint down one petal at a time so it is somewhat controlled although my chances for losing a piece to accident have increased greatly.
In the beginning I was rather frightened by the chance that I was taking. It made it so that I was almost afraid to paint. I hated the thought that I might have to scrap a piece after spending a lot of time on it. Then I decided that this change in style was reflective of a change I had made in my approach to life. I had decided to be more willing to put myself out there and try new things. I could always scrap it if I wasn’t happy with it.
3. Do any other art forms contribute to your work? If so, how?
Photography, I always work off of photographs. A flower doesn’t change in a photo like it can if you are working off of life. I usually use my own photos, but not always. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful photo, it just needs to show the flower well and not hide it in the photo’s highlights and shadows. I generally don’t go for art photographs of flowers. They are already pieces of art.
4. You are quite prolific, how do you stay motivated and inspired to work?
When people ask me if I am seeing anyone my response is generally, “I’m having a sordid affair with Art.” I’m happier to be in my studio painting and I think it’s because I found something that speaks to my soul. It’s sort of like a soap opera for me, I can’t wait to see what will happen next so I go back and paint a little more. When I’m working on something that excites me that’s all the motivation I need.
I’m an artist who also happens to have multiple sclerosis (MS). MS affects my eyesight and hand coordination amongst other things. I manage to get by these symptoms with some modifications. The one thing I can’t get by is the fatigue. I’m currently in a period of fatigue and I’m taking a little time off. I actually feel guilty because I’m not painting right now. Life is a balancing act for all of us.
5. Art and life merge for most artists, in what way does art become every day life for you?
I try to keep up on the art world. I go and look at art through museums, gallery openings, and open studios. It’s a great idea to see what’s out there locally. I read about art, whether it be a magazine with current happenings or a biography of an artist.
Getting together with artist friends and talking art is another favorite past time. They don’t have to be visual artists, their art can take on another form. I think we motivate and inspire each other.
After a day of visual art I love to head out for another art form in the evening. The Dockside in Malden has an open mike on Monday nights. Musicians, comedians, and poets all take the mike. The audience is wonderfully supportive and the acts are quite good. They have even begun to show visual art. There is also an organization called Massmouth. It’s a storytelling group. Writers go up and tell their stories which are about 5 minutes long and revolve around a particular theme for the night. Massmouth performances are held at various bars and pubs in the Boston Area.
To view the entire photoshoot of painter Elizabeth Colburn-Moraites go to Featured Artist Gallery.