Elisa Pritzker is an inventive artist who lives in the Hudson River Valley area of New York State. She lives there amid the natural world and her work http://www.elisapritzker.com/ is clearly inspired by her surroundings. I wanted to find out how she uses nature to create her work and why her work is so important to her…
“… Life is a continuous journey. The good part of it is that I do what I love. This is the best reward while I'm alive and breathing. It's a true fortune ...”
MICHAEL: Hello Elisa, Your work is very interesting. You are clearly drawn to nature and you celebrate nature yet I also see fun and humor in your work. How do you describe what you do?
ELISA: Thank you Michael for reaching out to have a conversation about art. You are doing a great service to artists. You picked one of my important and iconic series to discuss, Nature. My zippers on trees, trunks, bones and animals are a reflection and message about my caring for our environment.
MICHAEL: Yes, they’re all very interesting. You see to be humanizing and personifying nature.
ELISA: Planet earth is where we – humanity - live. It's our common home. Humor in this series came in a spontaneous way. I was not planning to be funny; it just happened. If I think carefully and deeply about the inclusion of humor, I guess it's because I believe that humor is a conduit to open-up and be more susceptible to thinking about an important topic like our relation to nature.
MICHAEL: Where does the inspiration for your work come from? Do you wait up in the morning with new ideas or do you work and ideas come as you’re working?
ELISA: My studio is currently in the countryside. I'm inspired by my daily life. As soon as I look out the window or go outside, I'm naturally mingling with trees, trunks, leaves and animals. I'm a true observant of nature and interested in going beyond the beauty that is obvious at first glance.
I love to reflect on the miracle of how the natural world exists and functions - a true revelation and mystery. Ideas and images constantly appear from the very early morning and during the entire day. They come as I work and the work tells me how to continue. It is not a thinking process per se, but a certainty that I have to do it this or that way. It's amazing to be guided by intuition, sometimes difficult to explain with words. It can be properly called a creative process.
MICHAEL: I found what you said about “Going beyond the beauty that is obvious at first glance” in nature. Not everything in nature is cosmetically beautiful, is it? Can beauty only be “skin deep” in nature?
ELISA: As a visual artist my understanding of nature is tinted by my point of view as a creative being. I find the natural world perfect, beautiful in its surface and in a deeper sense as well. One of the key lessons that I'm grasping by living surrounded by nature, is to witness not only the marvels of shapes and forms, but also the processes and the connections with human life. For instance, besides the beauty of a tree form, I also reflect on the seed, the grown tree and the benefits that it brings to humans like for example, clean oxygen, shade, firewood. In my Nature series, I hope to showcase a myriad of aspects from beauty to the essential interrelation that the environment has with humankind.
MICHAEL: I think so many of us take nature for granted - so much so that we either ignore it or we don't take care of it. Do you feel that nature needs our help or can it sustain itself as we live among it?
ELISA: I also think many of us take nature for granted. Perfect statement Michael. It's difficult for me to assess how much nature needs our help. I believe that originally nature was able to sustain itself when humans were connected directly with it, like aboriginal people. Currently, it seems that we are hurting the natural equilibrium through excessive waste, carbon monoxide emissions and several other factors. This topic is close to me not only reflected in my Nature series, but in my newest series of work about and inspired by the Selknams.
The Selknams were indigenous people in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and Chile, including the Tierra del Fuego Island. This current series is an investigation, research and visual homage to a rich and deep civilization that is now totally extinct.
MICHAEL: Fascinating. Shifting gears here … aren't you in the Hudson River Valley? I love that area of upstate New York. How does that area keep you inspired? Do you think you'd be doing similar work if you lived in Santa Fe, Vail or Napa?
ELISA: Yes, I am in the Hudson Valley. I’ve lived here for the past 23 years and I love it. It is said that “we artists” are like sponges that absorb what is going on in human life and in our surroundings, so probably, I won't be creating the same kind of art if I lived somewhere else. My two current bodies of work are clearly inspired, one in the Valley and the other in my Latin origins, especially after the trip to Ushuaia in Patagonia, Argentina. That trip influenced me to re-discover the original people from that area, the Selknams.
MICHAEL: There's something about Latin American Art and artists that I think sets them apart from the rest of the contemporary art world. I'm not sure if it's the color or spirit of the work or what. During your trip to Argentina, were you able to get any insight into this?
ELISA: I agree that Latin American Art traditionally tends to be colorful and energetic. Nowadays, traditional and contemporary art coexist. I find that, particularly in Buenos Aires, the influence from globalization including social media is very strong. You can find contemporary art all over the city. If you ever attend the yearly international art fair with over 30 years of activity "ArteBA" [Buenos Aires Art], you'll see a panorama of current Latin Art from Latin artists from all over the world. The art scene at the fair is similar to any other art fair from any other part of the western world.
MICHAEL: Isn't it cool how art fairs have really exploded all over the world? Do you like this or do you see pitfalls with all of these fairs? Do you take part in them?
ELISA: I've participated through galleries and done well in fairs in New York, Argentina and London. When the art fair concept appeared, I thought it was an interesting way to have a concentration of art under the same roof, but overtime, the extreme explosion of fairs all over the map made the whole concept deluded and convoluted. Currently, there is a mixed bag of art fairs. I'm not rushing to attend and if I do, I'm very selective of how to use my time and which ones I'll visit. Of course, if my work is on display, I'll be there … if possible.
MICHAEL: Given all of that Elisa, what do you think is the best way to reach people and get them interested in contemporary art? There are so many more distractions today and despite our connected society, people probably know less about art now than any other time.
ELISA: Distractions and media saturation make it challenging for people to be focused. As you said Michael, there are more ways and many platforms to connect with art, but at the same time, it is difficult to be on top of all of the social media and internet outlets. Maybe the way to go is to select which ones makes sense to each of us, go deeper and use that kind of communication. But beyond which way is selected to reach people, I base ALL in my art. I'm confident that if I choose the right communication channels and my art has interesting visual content, people will be attracted to it. I feel blessed in this regard.
MICHAEL: What's the difference for you between creating art and just making STUFF?
ELISA: What is creating art for some artists is making stuff for others. This is one of the most difficult questions. What I'm sure is that I have genuinely dedicated all of my life to the arts and I have the certainty that I have reached people with my art. It doesn't mean that everyone likes, understands and loves it, but I know that this is what happens with everything.
Humanity doesn't agree on all things. That’s the way it is. Besides, it's not about being liked by every person, but to be honest in expressing a personal point of view about any matter through a visual language and share it.
MICHAEL: You seem to like found objects. How important are found objects to your work?
ELISA: I enjoy expanding my imagination, the playfulness and the diverse transformations in the use of found objects. My favorite ones are right in my backyard and they come from nature. My art often includes rocks, stones, branches, twigs, bones and pieces of trunks.
MICHAEL: Does you body of work thus far have a message? Also, where are you now in your evolution as an artist?
ELISA: My two current bodies of work, Nature and The Selknams, communicate in visual language my way of seeing the natural world and the contributions of native people to humanity as we’ve discussed.
I'm in a very exciting moment in my art career. I'm motivated, concentrated and dedicated to my art. In fact, I'm installing the next solo exhibit at Space Create in Newburgh, New York.
MICHAEL: Fantastic! Solo shows are always good.
ELISA: Life is a continuous journey. The good part of it is that I do what I love. This is the best reward while I'm alive and breathing. It's a true fortune.
MICHAEL: It most certainly is. Thanks Elisa. Nice chat and here’s to many more solo shows.
ELISA: Thanks to you Michael.
Check out Elisa Pritzker at http://www.elisapritzker.com/.