elizabeth erickson

                                                           Elizabeth Erickson, Hildegard's Grace, 2010-15, oil on canvas, 60 in. x 42 in.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I’m interested in revolution. And that doesn’t really mean a fight, but it means a change. And, that interests me a lot. . . . I work toward the change, which has to do with integrating the human conversation so that there is a dialog that includes 50% women. So, that is an interesting effort. . . . And by women, I don’t just mean a female body, I mean a female point of view . . . a change of mind in, not only men, but women and who they are and what they have to say and how they want the world to look.

Are there ways in which you intend your work to challenge the viewer?

I don’t really know that I am that interested in challenging anyone. . . . I like to think of encounter. I like it if the encounter can be warm and loving and part of life itself.

Is there something you are currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

Part of what I’m going to do [for the show] has to do with Hildegard of Bingen. . . . She died in 1279. . . . She was an abbess of a monastery and started other monasteries. . . . She was also a physician and an herbalist . . . [who] wrote a book that is still used in Germany today. . . . The pharmacy that she developed and the other point of view of working with the body is written in the book. . . . I became aware of her through her music; . . . her chant . . . was made famous by the Anonymous Four, a quartet, who were singing her music, which kind of caught fire in the U.S. and abroad. . . . When I heard it I was very deeply moved, and her music seemed to me to have a relationship to light. . . . I have about four or five different streams of work in my studio, and one of them is Hildegard, and that is part of what’s on my mind.

Elizabeth Erickson in front of the Morrison building at MCAD

What have been the greatest challenges to your art career and how do you navigate them?

My art career has involved a long span of time and ups and downs, . . . times when I was showing and selling, and times when I was not, times when I was happy teaching and times when I was not, times when it was especially difficult in terms of a schedule and raising children and continuing in the studio and in the classroom. . . . Very complex, but VERY doable. . . . There was a period of time in this country when women artists were not having children because they felt they couldn’t be that divided. And I think that time is behind us now, as a whole. . . . It’s been demonstrated that it’s really possible with help.

What advice has influenced you or your art making?

Elizabeth Erickson, Hildegard's Egg of Light - Viriditas, 2011, acrylic, 34 in. x 26 in.

I had a very good teacher for a period of time who really counseled me in seeking the truth of things . . . and finding that inside and being willing to share it. . . . And he also suggested carefully selecting what you show and where you show. . . . Over the years, I’ve really found that useful.

Why did you choose to pursue the life of a professional artist?

I chose it over and over and over. There were many chances to do something else, but I chose it again and again. I was also very interested in teaching, and it was just very natural for me to teach. . . . As I continued on I just kept teaching. I always found it a privilege and a lot of fun and constructive, . . . so that continued, too.

In your opinion, how is being a woman artist in 2015 different from what it might have been like one, two, three or even four decades ago?

Well statistics are good, in certain ways. When the Guerrilla Girls surveyed and found only 3% of women were being represented in museum institutions, that was a big thing . . . and now it’s at 4% . . . so we still have a long way to go. I noticed that in 1990s the women were not getting good critiques here. . . . [Years earlier] I had imagined a women’s art institute that would be a contribution to the change that might happen. . . . When I proposed that to the president [of MCAD], he kept saying no each year . . . and then I proposed it to the dean, who was a woman, and she said yes. So we started the Women’s Art Institute . . . and she [the dean] gave me a long list of tasks to prove that I could do it. . . . And I decided to go for it. . . . When we began I asked a wonderful artist, Pat Olson, to join and she said “sure!” . . . and so we started the Women’s Art Institute at MCAD [and hosted it] for about fourteen years, and then we moved to St. Catherine University . . . where it is thriving. . . . Every year we have a very intense four‐week period of extensive studio work and thought and it’s just on fire!

Does personal history work its way into your practice? How might who you are be reflected in your current work?

I create a wide range of images. Some of them are abstract and some of them are [representational] depictions. . . . I’m very interested in symbolic images. . . . I’ve created a series of paintings involving the chakras, and I’ve been very involved in art and healing . . . and how that can be represented.

Are there certain ways in which you identify yourself as a feminist artist?

Elizabeth Erickson

There is no doubt what‐so‐ever that I am a feminist artist!

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