This post is part of a special series titled “Tour to Terrain” following abstract-expressionist artist, Elisa Gomez, as she makes her way from Texas to California. Elisa will be participating in The Midway Gallery’s fall exhibition, Terrain, a meditation on the outdoors (Sept. 10 – Oct. 22, 2016). She will be creating several pieces inspired by the American west while on her months long road-trip. Elisa’s large-scale paintings will be exhibited in Terrain, alongside items documenting her process. You can read an introductory post to this project here.
Miles away in Telluride, CO, Elisa Gomez called me from the quaint town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Her ecstatic voice choppily emerged from my phone as she tried to articulate what van-life had thus far been like. I could practically feel her grinning as she exclaimed, “I was elated, just elated!” about leaving her Austin, TX home and hitting the road.
Hungry for change, on June 29th, Elisa began her journey westward in her trusted Chevy Astro van, Tula. Packed with the essentials for painting, camping, and hiking, Elisa looked forward to witnessing her work evolve as she absorbed the mountains, valleys, and desserts of the American West.
On her way to Colorado, Elisa cut through New Mexico, stopping by a roadside flea market. There she discovered a treasure trove of sound and color amidst the various vendors and performers. A Persian rug caught her eye and was promptly purchased to make Tula a bit more homey.
With conventional responsibilities removed from her daily life, Elisa felt more open to absorbing the natural world around her:
“Having the freedom of not having to be anywhere and having no ties to obligations is amazing. I had this moment where I was just lying on the floor of my van and I could hear everything! The leaves sounded different and I could hear a tiny, tiny bird in the distance, and I don’t know if it’s just because I’m more happy, but everything sounded so clear and so different to me. It’s like having no obligations and nothing tugging at the back of my mind makes everything easier to soak up and enjoy.”
Telluride offered Elisa an abundance of hiking trails which she tackled with glee, stopping along the way to sketch in her book and note vibrant, naturally occurring colors.
After the rains had passed, Elisa took a large 6’ by 7’ canvas to a grassy knoll and began painting in the open air. For the past six months she has been using her bare hands to apply intensely gestural strokes, with brushwork employed near the end of her creative process to finalize details. Although most of Elisa’s work has been large-scale, painting on the floor as opposed to an easel allowed Elisa to physically enter her composition. The huge canvas was secured in place with a few rocks, while Elisa continuously moved in and out of the piece in a somewhat ritualistic manner. With hands smeared in various colors, she circled around the canvas to see her progress from different angles, applying fresh strokes where “it felt right.” As Elisa was very much a part of her painting, the piece itself was effectively incorporated into the landscape, an unexpected extension of the natural wonders that Telluride hikers happened upon that day.
Stay tuned to keep up with Elisa’s adventure as she makes her way through Utah and Wyoming next.
*Edit; Tour to Terrain • Episode 3 is now live here
To see her finished mountainside piece, as well as some of the other paintings she’s been working on, follow Elisa here
Learn more about Elisa here
Written by Vanessa Wilson
All images provided by the artist.