This post follows abstract-expressionist artist, Elisa Gomez, as she makes her way from Texas to California and is part of a special series titled “Tour to Terrain.” Elisa will be participating in The Midway Gallery’s fall exhibition, Terrain: navigating landscapes (Sept. 10 – Oct. 22, 2016). She created several large-scale paintings inspired by the American west while on her months long road-trip which will be exhibited in Terrain alongside items documenting her process.
On June 29, 2016, Elisa Gomez said goodbye to her Austin, TX apartment and hit the road with “a big smile on [her] face.” Since then, Elisa lived and worked out of her wheeled-studio, Tula, a converted Chevy Astro Van. Before leaving her conventional home, Elisa made arrangements with The Midway Gallery to show three large-scale paintings as part of our exhibition Terrain: navigating landscapes. The paintings were to be made on the road as a creative documentation of her journey.
When we first spoke in June, Elisa felt her artistic career had “hit the ceiling” in Texas. She wanted a change of scenery and was in search of something to push her work and help her evolve as an artist. It seemed like the opportune moment to take a leap into the van-culture that had been blossoming across America. Nature had always been a huge influence in Elisa’s work, so the opportunity to live immersed in the elements appealed to her.
Since leaving Texas, Elisa has traveled through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and California. Throughout her adventure she made sure to capture the colors, sights, and sounds that moved her. Her sketchbook became a travel journal of sorts, overflowing with daily notes and drawings.
“The sketchbook has been a really fascinating integration into my work. I’ve had books before but not regimented. Now, they help me remember certain colors and shapes, what I’ve done on a certain day, and how I felt at the time,” Elisa explains.
As Elisa drove and camped her way through Western states, her paintings underwent drastic changes in both style and execution. For her new, essentials-only lifestyle, packing an easel wasn’t feasible and transporting un-stretched canvases was more space-effective than stretched. Equipped with loose canvases and sans easel, Elisa began painting on the ground and holding her canvases in place with rocks.
“I really like starting on the ground now. I really like messing with [the painting] from above and on top of it. I can be super messy with it when it’s on the ground and make a royal mess pouring water on it, and there’s grass and dirt and things I can just grab and use. That changed a lot from when I had a normal studio,” Elisa says.
When I last spoke with Elisa, she was ecstatic about her recent stay in Glacier National Park, MT, where the abundance of crystal clear water and lush greenery blew her away.
“I never got sick of seeing the water, and I was surprised by it every time,“ Elisa told me by phone, “the water is like turquoise, it’s so beautiful, the rocks are like these different shades of soft grey. They’re less aggressive than Wyoming where everything is rough and rugged and the rocks are black and scary, the rocks in Glacier are a soft and relaxing grey like a beach cove.”
At the time, her final paining for Terrain was in process and all about Glacier. Needless to say, blue hues run rampant across the piece. Slightly less aggressive than the other two paintings, Elisa’s last composition attempts to capture the stunning vibrancy of Glacier and how its natural beauty affected her.
“Glacier had a soft awe about its grand scale and terrain,” Elisa adds.
Elisa’s adventure concluded at The Midway Gallery on September 6, 2016. There, her audio-visual installation, Tour to Terrain, features the three paintings she made on her trip, accompanied by her sketchbooks and sound recordings. Tour to Terrain invites you to flip through Elisa’s sketchbooks while listening to her sound recordings to experience the various natural and cultural elements that inspired her.
Elisa Gomez’s work will be exhibited as part of The Midway Gallery’s group show Terrain: navigating landscapes. Terrain will be on view from September 10 to October 22, 2016 with an opening reception on Saturday, September 10, from 6pm to 9pm. RSVP to the opening reception here.
Written by Vanessa Wilson
All images provided by the artist