Spreading her wings
This story was featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story
Ballet shoes, teacups, and peacock feathers are often the stars in Elizabeth Weiss’ still-life paintings. Portrayal of such delicate, fragile subjects is a trademark of Weiss’ works. Most recently the New Orleans artist has turned her attention to butterflies. One painting in her new butterfly series is currently on view in the International Guild of Realism’s Masterworks Museum Tour, a traveling show. Another, AND YET SHE FLIES—which the artist considers a self-portrait—was recently included in the guild’s annual juried exhibition at Principle Gallery in Charleston, SC.
Weiss has become increasingly interested in portraying what she calls “the emotional realm” and exploring creative ways to express her ideas symbolically. Butterflies seem a natural choice as subject matter. “Aside from their exquisite beauty and variety, they symbolize to me so many things—delicacy, vulnerability, resilience, grace, intuition, gentleness, and transformative power,” Weiss says. “I am a very petite person and have always related to tiny things. So I feel some connection to the butterfly. Some of the tiniest creatures can prove themselves to be among the most resilient. To me that is very inspiring.”
Weiss has a degree in fine arts from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, and lists her father, a representational oil painter, as well as the Dutch masters as influences. In the tradition of the old masters, she hopes to convey a similar luminosity and sense that a painting is “breathing,” she says. In the course of creating the butterfly series, Weiss notes that she has gained intimate knowledge of her subjects. She first must order her “models” through various websites. When the creatures arrive, their wings are dried and folded. Weiss has learned how to hydrate the butterflies and spread their wings, which she describes as an art form in itself.
The artist views the cases she depicts in this recent series as metaphors for imprisonment. Some of her featured butterflies break free of that restriction. “The paintings are inspired by the concept of liberating oneself from an oppressive captivity, and despite all odds, finding one’s way toward the freedom to embrace one’s true nature, unencumbered,” Weiss says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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