Elizabeth Austin, biographical 2001
Elizabeth Austin paints enchanted landscapes on the reverse side of thick plastic
panels. Her recent paintings, The Nocturnes, are set at night in a leafy forest. Richly colored in blues and greens, they include reflective pigment and collaged foil. Austin's paintings are both closely observed studies of nature and poetic evocations of wonder and melancholy.
Austin grew up in Chicago in a family that encouraged her early involvement in art. Her mother was a singer in the Chicago Lyric Opera, and her father was a lawyer with a keen
interest in the latest developments in painting and sculpture. Austin remembers the
importance of their regular visits to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, where she
absorbed the work of Warhol, Marisol, and Christo, among others. Austin studied studio art at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, focusing on drawing from life, a skill which forms the basis of her recent landscape paintings. After graduating in 1982, she apprenticed to Jill Sebastian, a mixed media artist and Steve Pevnick, a computer
artist. Austin moved to New Hampshire in the mid-1980s and began producing large pastel drawings. In 1985, Austin started a series of performance art pieces which she pursued for the next ten years. These projects included both audience participation pieces and a one-woman play. During this period, Austin toured the United States extensively with her performances.
In the early 1980s, Austin started creating a series of one-of-a kind artist's books that
used translucent plastic. A summer program at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies
sparked Austin's interest in diffraction grating, the phenomenon which allows holograms to function. Austin's use of iridescent paint and of foil that reflects prismatic light grows directly out of this exploration. The artist has noted that these materials change appearance depending upon the position of the viewer, similar to the varied reactions of an audience to a live performance. From 1988-98, Austin produced paintings of waterfalls and streams, using collaged reflective elements. These lead directly into the artist’s current work, with their dream-like visions of nature.
Austin has shown her work extensively, including venues in Wisconsin, Paris, Tokyo and Cape Verde, Africa. Several exhibitions of her paintings were held in Chicago at the Jean Albano Gallery in the 1990s. Originally from the Midwest, Austin received her B.S. from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. She also studied new media, including inflatables, holograms, video, sound art and sky art, at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Asch lives in Europe and New Hampshire.
New Hampshire artist, Elizabeth Austin melds imagery and techniques inspired by new materials and traditional European art to create a visually dazzling body of work. She studied new media including inflatables, holograms, video, sound art and sky art at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Cambridge, MA. Then, living for more than a decade in France, she absorbed the lessons of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture.
Drawing on these diverse sources, Austin developed what she believes to be a unique working process: suspending reflective materials such as holographic foils, mica and aluminum powders in clear acrylic medium and layering it onto transparent acrylic blocks. She has refined this technique, adding multiple layers of acrylic paint embedded with mica and other new materials. Painted on the back of the blocks, the paintings suggest three dimensions when viewed from the front.
A visit to a catheral in Belgium evealed that the techniques Austin has been using are, in fact, very similar to those used for centuries by artists from Europe, India and China to create reverse paintings on glass.
Austin creates large-scale paintings that have a commanding, even cosmic, presence. Her Cassetinas were conceived as intimate experiences.
Each work is numbered, and is framed in a hand-crafted Florentine wood box.