Vermont Arts Council

Symbolic Landscapes

Elizabeth Nelson has painted since she was eight. Her work has been shown since the late 1980s and has been presented in juried shows for nearly as long. Well-known for her images of northeastern landscapes, she is represented by galleries in New York and Vermont and has won commissions for public art.

Liz is neither a young nor obscure artist; years of experience inform her painting. Reflecting on that, she said, “Every so often artists come to the end of what they’re exploring. They have to ask, ‘Where do I go from here?'” 2012 was one of those times. She wanted to transform her art.

Making Changes

Liz is not originally from Vermont, but has called the Northeast Kingdom home for 45 years. She has lived in New York, Boston, North Carolina, even Guatemala. So, why Glover? “This is the place that has my heart,” she says warmly.

Liz was once a dairy farmer — for 25 years. But, she didn’t move to a dairy farm and become a farmer; she made her property into a farm. In retrospect, she realizes she has initiated many transformations. She made public art installations. She remade two living spaces. She was the collections manager at The Old Stone House Museum in Brownington for seven years. When she wanted to find a new direction for her own work, she consulted the “I Ching,” an ancient Chinese text also known as “The Book of Changes.”

#3. Difficulty at the Beginning
#3: Difficulty at the Beginning

The Moon Lights the Way

A friend introduced Liz to the book in the mid-1960s. She remembers, “The language of the symbols connected so closely with my unconscious thoughts.” There are times she refers to the method frequently and times she puts it aside for years. Liz describes her use as “something I have used in different ways for different questions and in different intensities.”

It was that time in 2012. She was mulling over changes and it occurred to her, “Oh, I’ll ask I Ching!” She threw coins to reveal sign “#2: The Receptive.” She calls this “the ultimate Yin sign. It’s the moon, receiving, accepting, nurturing.” It was not, however, an immediate answer. Time passed. “I’m living my life.” Then, “I woke up early one morning, the moon was setting over the snow, and all of the sudden I thought, ‘that’s it!'”

Her next painting was a 20″x20″ painting of that scene with a red square. “Everything was working for me.” She then had the idea to paint 64 images, one for each of the signs. She bought another 63 panels (all 20″ square). “I’m more than halfway through now. It’s very rewarding.”

#2. The Receptive
#2: The Receptive

Inside of Discipline

The discipline of such a project is “very freeing.” Liz called it “a freedom inside of discipline.” She made an analogy: “If you’ve cooked a souffle, one that’s followed the rules, and have had some success, then you start changing things.” She applies that thought to painting: “You have to keep pushing the edges of your knowledge and capabilities to grow as an artist. Completing one idea,” she explains, gives her the “confidence to do a riff on it. It’s a physical skill, among other things. You have to have confidence in your skills; you keep practicing.”

Ideas for the square paintings continue to evolve. “I’m approaching them in a somewhat different way than I do the landscapes. With ‘I Ching,’ I’m working from an image in my head. The jumping off place for the two things is different. They just reinforce each other.”

More than twenty of these new paintings will be in the Spotlight Gallery.You can meet Liz and see some of the square panels at the opening on September 2.

Upper left: #9: The Taming of the Small

Elizabeth Nelson’s website
Artist statement

Come to the opening September 2, 2016, 4-7 p.m.

Susan McDowell

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