Revisiting Elizabeth Mead’s Various objects: Things on the horizon and Inklings

Elizabeth Mead's Various objects: Things on the horizon was one of the more noteworthy exhibits in the early history of the gallery. We have added additional material including panels for the companion Inklings exhibit which appeared in our entrance gallery. Special thanks to Elizabeth Mead and Carey Bagdassarian for providing us with the Inkling material which we have published on the gallery website for the first time.

ELIZABETH MEAD
VARIOUS OBJECTS: THINGS ON THE HORIZON

Opening: May 11, 2013
Closing: July 26, 2013

Exhibiting Artist:
Elizabeth Mead 

and

INKLINGS

by Elizabeth Mead and Carey Bagdassarian

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Statement for Various objects: Things on the horizon by Elizabeth Mead

This work is about looking. About taking the time to really look. I am not trying to tell you anything. I am inviting you to take a moment, stop what you are doing, just simply look and, perhaps, begin to see. I am always reminded of what Ivo Salvini says in Fellini's La Voce della luna,  "I believe that if there were a bit more silence, if we all were a little bit quieter…perhaps then we could understand." These forms are simple, yet they take time to reveal themselves. They take time to understand.

I understand the world through physicality, location and through my mind. The largest expanse of space sits within my head. There the vastness of all I encounter physically merges with those moments just out of reach, those moments of discovery.

The drawings and objects I make are how I come to understand the world and my place in it. John Berger says that "any fixed contour is in nature arbitrary and impermanent…The challenge of drawing is to show us this, to make visible on the paper…not only discrete recognizable things, but also… show how the extensiveness is one substance…substance, harasses the act of drawing. …without this harassment the drawing remains a mere sign." These forms are not signs, they are not mimetic versions of a known entity. They are the mark on the paper, the form composed of wood or porcelain or paper twine. They are modest, somewhat quiet and often stubborn.

This assembly of drawings and objects is an attempt to recreate a landscape, one that originates in the Pacific Northwest and Wyoming and is planted firmly in my mind. I isolate elements in order to absorb them. Each form is like an individual rock or flora, a parsing of the landscape. I assemble them here in an attempt to form the landscape that exists in my mind as well as my body.

My deep gratitude to the Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor Laboratories and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts for giving me the time and the space to make many of these drawings.

Elizabeth Mead


Panels from Inklings by Elizabeth Mead and Carey Bagdassarian



A Chat with Elizabeth Mead by Alex Smith


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Describe the moment when you decided you wanted to be an artist.

I didn't decide to be an artist but I did decide to study art. Initially I thought I wanted to be a printmaker and that I could combine that with publishing. I was a rather impatient printmaker and always getting fingerprints in the margins. Then one day I took a sculpture class with Barbara Zucker. Suddenly she was giving form to all the questions that swirled in my head. Here was this activity that asked the questions that haunted me and, it exhausted me physically as well as mentally, a state I really needed when I was younger.

How would you describe your education?

My undergraduate degree is from Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts. During the time I was a student there, the sculpture department was divided into two camps, one that was completely immersed in the world of the figure and life observation, and the other in abstraction. Both areas shared a strong foundation seeped in philosophical thought and I was very fortunate to have been able to work within both of those worlds. Following my undergraduate studies, I worked as a studio assistant to the sculptor Philip Grausman. It was during that time I met the sculptor Jay Sullivan who was teaching at Amherst College. I had amazing conversations with Jay and decided he was the person I wanted to study under. Lucky for me, he accepted a position at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; they have a fantastic graduate school. Toward the end of my graduate studies I became interested in the space between a performer and an audience. I was asked to design a Beckett play titled, "Play" and that started my work in theater. I worked with  companies across the country including the Tony award winning Theater de la Jeune Lune. I studied at the Ecole Internationale Jacque LeCoq in Paris and was invited to attend workshop classes with Marcello Magna of Theatre du Complicite and Ming Cho Lee. The past couple of years I have been studying bookmaking at the Arts of the Book Center in Charlottesville and wood turning in the Pacific North West with Laura Yeats.

Whom are you currently influenced by and from where do you get inspiration to create your artwork?

The world around me is a constant influence.

What type of medium do you prefer working with? Tell me what compels you to work with said medium.

For more than twenty years, I worked almost solely in plaster. I liked the way it allowed me to build up and take down a form and I really liked that it was an intermediary material. It has fragility and does not come with the usual fine art designation; it doesn't claim the "value" of something like for example, bronze. I suppose it is kind of modest and I really like that. But a few years back I decided for a variety of reasons it was time to find another material. So I began experimenting which has led me to the wood turning and bookmaking.

What kind of medium or materials would you like to work on next? In other words, what do you wish to try?

There are some more forms I would like to try in porcelain and wood. While not new materials per se, I don't have full command of them and would like to push forward with them.

Are you currently working on any projects?

There are always several projects in the works but one in particular is the Inklings project with Carey Bagdassarian. We plan to keep working on the writing and drawings and hope to be able at some point to work with a letterpress artist.

Of the various art galleries in Williamsburg and its surrounding areas, how did you get involved with the Linda Matney Gallery?

Lee Matney contacted me last year about working with some of our students at William and Mary. I had been away on a research leave and was delighted to return to Williamsburg to find Lee has opened Linda Matney Fine Arts. He is really adding a new dimension to the growing arts community in Williamsburg.

I understand you're a well-traveled artist. Where and what was your most exhilarating exhibit/destination? In addition, where do you hope to travel to?

This is a hard question to answer, Japan was certainly an exciting place to work and exhibit and London is always a very, very productive place for me. Of course the minute I try to end there I realize I have to include Wyoming, the landscape and sense of time there has had a radical impact on me and on my work. I am deeply grateful for all of the places I have been able to work. At the moment, I am working on getting to Antarctica.

Last but not least, if you could work with any artist, living or dead, whom would you choose?

Pina Bausch! Hands down the most astounding artist I have ever encountered!

Simply put, Elizabeth Mead is quite the artist. I had the marvelous opportunity to study sculpture under her as a former student so it was only fitting that I accepted the task to interview her. Armed with an unparalleled eye for plaster-dominant pieces, her meticulous craftsmanship evokes a sense of equivocal realism and space in her sculptures and drawings. Mead, currently a professor at the College of William and Mary, has exhibited throughout the world - USA, Portugal, Japan, Korea and England. She designed over two dozen theatrical productions, having worked with the internationally-acclaimed Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis, MN and various theaters. You can see her works and statement at www.elizabethmead.com

Alex Smith

Additional Information on Elizabeth Mead’s Various Objects: Things on the horizon:

Interview by Philip Newbery