Falling Into Place: A Journey Through Lizzy Taber’s Work

Lizzy Taber has a special glow, a warm kind of energy that reaches through and makes you feel at home, like you’ve known her for a long time. Her work is heavily based on travelling and places. She explores different media such as drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture. As she traveled from her acquainted, flat, wet, blue seaside lands of Florida -where she grew up- to the new, dry, mountainous, warm toned desert of Arizona, she began to attach certain memory to environmental factors. “Unfamiliar land is a place I often desire to go, to begin to let go of things that no longer serve me in exchange for balance.”- she claims.

Lizzy started her artist career a little bit by chance, when she was a freshman at University, pursuing a degree in English. Thanks to a friend, she joined a couple of art electives, not very successfully at first, until she realized she found a lot more pleasure in this than anything else. However, she didn’t consider herself an artist, and an internal debate developed inside of her: “But, I am not an artist. How could I get a degree in art, when I’m not even good at it, and I am not even an artist?” She said to herself. After fighting that mentality for quite some time, she finally took a printmaking course. She was completely hooked. “I considered myself a printmaker after my first edition, nothing in got me more stoked than printmaking.” From there on, everything would start falling into place, just like the rocks do when they hit the sea bottom.

Among the many scholarships and awards she received, Lizzy considers attending Radius Workshops in Croatia as one of the most important ones: “My mentor Louise Freshman Brown invited me in 2014 to Croatia on a trip she does yearly. It was a works on paper, watercolor and monotype workshop and she awarded me a scholarship to go. This was the summer right after I graduated from my Bachelor’s. This was probably the first time in my life I thought: I can do this, I can find my place in the art world.” Growing up by the sea, in Pompano Beach, Florida, heavily influenced her. Now being apart from it at the desert, completing her Masters in Fine Arts and Printmaking at the Arizona State University provides a different perspective and is proving to be a turning point both personally and professionally.

This can be appreciated in her “Sea Level Headed” series, her most successful body of work in terms of exposure and professional growth, featuring the most impressive natural landscapes portrayed in the form of beautiful geometrically shaped photogravures.

Her works are inspired by a blend of avant-garde and contemporary artists. Her inclinations towards the minimalist painter Agnes Martin, mainly due to her pallet and her writings, resonate heavily in Lizzy’s work. She also cites master Frank Stella, evoking his magical power to transmit emotion through his work as a way of relating to the audience. Sol Lewitt, Ellsworth Kelly and Eva Hesse are among her minimalistic influences too. Moreover, having been in Iceland last summer (where she participated in an Artist-in Residency program) she had some input of northern-rooted contemporary artists such as Olaffur Eliasson, especially his aesthetic, concepts, and research in relation to climate change, and also performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Closer to her most recent production are LA-based Sarah Cain, with her vibrant colors and geometric canvas shapes, and Scottish artist Katie Patterson, who considers our place on earth in the context of geological time and change, crossing her works with scientific data. Along the same lines there is some influence from Mark Dion, whose work is known by the use of scientific presentations in his installations.

The crossroads between man and nature, the central nerve of ETHER Arts Project, is very present in Lizzy Taber’s work, in all the media she works on. There is a constant reference to the natural world. When questioned about this interest, she says: “Man is nature. It’s funny because as humans we can feel so removed from nature, but we are nature. (…) We feel so separated that begin so think about ourselves “in nature” – We’re almost beginning to become cyborgs. So addicted to technology, it seems that only on hikes or camping trips we do feel like we are back in nature. However, we breathe air, need sunlight, drink water and eat food – just like all living things in nature need!”

Lizzy is very conscious and shows deep concern about the carbon footprint we are leaving on earth. Thus, she considers important that the works she produces help raise awareness about these topics, while helping her deepen her understanding about how the world works and where we are going. She says: “My work is highly about loss especially on a human level (…) I’ve had a few very close people to me passed away, and I think each time changed my view on the world, and on my work. Loss, change and impermanence are always present. But as society has trained me, it’s even hard for me to talk about death within my work. The work about the coral reefs and the glaciers is a way for me to wrap my head around loss (…) the scale is so incredibly monumental and affects us all. I think the magnitude of such a loss is quite easier for us to conceptualize and process than a smaller scaled death of someone close to us – so I use these metaphors for myself to sort of wrap my head around permanent loss, death, and sentimentality.” Using nature as a metaphor to address both personal and global issues seems to be the formula Lizzy has found yet to communicate what’s rooted deeply within herself, her uttermost inner desire.

Following this idea, she cites as a turning point in her life when she experienced a glacier crumble and fall apart into the water at Jökulsárlón, Iceland: “This moment was jarring, poetic, tragic, and beautiful – all at the same time. As I witness these fragile landscapes, I begin to notice the comparisons of our own inevitable loss to theirs.” As it can be noted, being in close contact with nature at such an impressive spectacle left a strong imprint in her work.

Tracing nature’s path in Lizzy’s works is not too hard, studying the geology that scientifically and metaphysically inspired the shapes that reoccur in her pieces. According to her, “The abstract gem-like forms possess and symbolize the energy people create. While sedentary rocks are physical evidence of the earth’s history, this body of work exists as a documentation of my personal connections. I thought a lot about the spiritual, cultural, metaphysical, natural, beautiful, colorful, geological, consumerism, historical, and geographical aspects of gems and minerals, for about 4 years.”

This resulted in a strong body of work exemplified by “Hidden Gems”, a collection of geometrically shaped watercolors, and “Recollection Collection”, a series of wooden sculptures with laser-engraved drawings that represent her very own rock collection and souvenirs from

unrepeatable travels. “My work is visual language speaking in metaphors. I was really interested in symbolisms and meanings attached to crystals. How is it that a Smokey Quartz can denote negative energy? Although I’m not arguing that it can’t, I’m rather fascinated by the idea of humans attaching meanings to objects. So I started making my own crystals, and attaching meanings to them in my work- which is essentially what all artists do anyway. It led me down a lovely path of really studying the lapidary and historical context of energy and spirituality within minerals, all the way until reaching the mining industry, which isn’t sustainable in any way. (…) I think I am trying to break away from that shape in my newer works, but I am always drawn to sharp geometric edges.”

Her most recent series, which are included in her last show “Tidal” on display during May in Downtown Phoenix along with Colombian-born Cami Galofre, is in part an exploration of consumerism and capitalism- how products are pushed on us and advertised. It also captures the abstract qualities of oceanic organisms while highlighting the beauty, power, and fragility of seascapes. She says about it: “Ever since I was a child, I felt attracted to glittery, shiny, rainbow, and metallic things. Quite honestly, I still do.” Based on this primary attraction, she started exploring these materials, and through research she even discovered that humans are naturally more attracted to shiny things because of our inherent need for water. This discovery circled her back from the artificial into the natural, as she points out: “the non-natural elements still play a role in some natural-weird-psychological kind of way to us, natural beings. I think that, many times, the artificial mirrors the natural – even when it’s completely in opposition.”

Her creative process follows different paths according to the medium she uses. When approaching a new work, if it’s a painting or drawing she enjoys that moment of free-play and almost stream-of-consciousness-state, of letting herself create freely. Printmaking, on the other hand, requires more careful planning, and there is a certain surprise element similar than that one of discovering a photograph in the lab. She says: “There’s a sense of collaboration between myself and the printmaking press. There’s a moment of surprise – almost magic. Once I create my plate and run it through with all that pressure – there’s a chance of unknown. There’s this collaboration where I can never be certain how the print will come out until I lift the paper up. That feeling is an indescribable and I began to love and crave it each time!” Both creative possibilities, the immediate and the premediated, are equally attractive to her and her inspiration is driven fairly by both aesthetic and emotion, as well as her mood is affected by the music she listens too at that particular moment.

Her desire when making art is being able to transmit some kind of emotion and introspective thinking through her work, just like her favorite Minimalists did. She has also been recently exploring tarot-reading, and even attaching esoteric meaning to some of the works she created. It’s like as if the tarot cards could catch a particular hidden energy within the works, an internal vibration which is imperceptible to the eye, but somehow experiential for the viewer.

For this summer, Lizzy has a busy agenda. She will go back to her Florida roots for some family time. After, she will move to Kauai, Hawaii, where she was awarded a fellowship at Double Dog Dare Studio with owner Sally French. From there, she will be going straight to San Diego to board the Falkor –a research vessel developed by Schmidt Ocean Institute. “I applied and was selected to be a part of this year’s Artist at Sea Residency. It’s a residency where artists create works directly inspired by the ocean research taking place on the ship. The vessel I will be on will travel from San Diego up to Astoria, Oregon. The type of research we will be doing is seafloor mapping.” The opportunity of exploring diverse marine biology in such different settings will surely enrich this artist’s practice, furthering her development and falling into place into a very promising future. We will be sure to follow her steps closely.

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