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: navigating landscapes (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 and Episode 2 here.
After spending a month roughing it in Telluride—where Elisa’s long term boyfriend Jake joined her adventure—Elisa was desperate for a change of scenery. She packed up, an easy feat when you’re home is mobile, and hit the road again for a quick solo jaunt through the area split between Wyoming and Utah. Her adventurous spirit led her to Flaming Gorge, known for its magnificent sandstone cliffs. There she began her second painting.
With the canvas outstretched on the floor, Elisa unleashed all the feelings evoked by the wilderness she had been immersed in for the last few weeks. Greens and yellows ran rampant across the surface, interrupted by moments of deep violet, rich magenta, and pastel blue. The dripped, pulled, and layered elements of Elisa’s composition encapsulated the physical and emotive energy of living within the intensely forested areas of Wyoming.
“Wyoming is more wilderness than any other place I've been,” Elisa explains, “So, the piece is a little darker and represents the more aggressive nature I felt there.”
The painting frenzy continued until Elisa and her piece were caught in the rain. It later migrated to the side of Tula, Elisa’s Chevy Astro van and home. After completing a nerve-wrecking drive through winding, dirt roads, the painting re-emerged, hung between two dead trees in the forest surrounding a campsite by the ominous name of Shadow Mountain.
In a sight that blurred the line between the manmade and the natural, Elisa continued to work on her painting as if renewing the decayed stumps with the furious energy of new life; until the canvas was brusquely blown away by the wind. As the painting moved and evolved it not only captured Elisa’s visual interpretation of her experiences, but had also become a record of her ever-changing environment.
A major influence in Elisa’s current body of work has been the moss encountered throughout her exploration of these diverse landscapes. Elisa’s moss obsession is evident whenever she describes what she’s noticed and admired along her journey. She herself has admitted to having a bit of a moss “problem.” On her affection for the plant, Elisa reveals:
“[Moss] is so very rich with nutrients, it seems to represent happy and healthy life. It only exists in lush and vibrant places. It is the quintessence of what nature is in relation to me. The colors, even if a more subdued shade, are still full of vitality.”
Among the breathtaking sites Elisa has absorbed, sound has also played a pivotal role in the way she is experiencing her nomadic lifestyle, and by extension, in the manner her art is unfolding. From listening to Jake strum his guitar in the wild, to quiet moments heating up by the campfire. In between weeks of wild living, bouldering, and fly fishing, Elisa has also enjoyed moments in civilization. In Aspen, CO she happened across the happy beats and ridiculous lyrics of quirky musical group Wino Vino. These noises become entwined with the memories of the terrain Elisa has traversed, and inform the formal elements of her work.
“My process in making abstract pieces isn't necessarily about representing what I am seeing, but expressing what I feel as a result of what I am observing and living in. As far as what I am trying to achieve, I just want to make something that has depth and gestural movement that will make you (the viewer) want to look closer, and take time to take it all in—not just pass by and see the colors, but see more, and, hopefully, some people will be moved by the work, as I am by other works. I want to capture [how] with the influence of nature—the color relationships between the earth, sky and water and how its constantly changing and evolving—my work is evolving and changing as my environment changes as well.“
Tour to Terrain will pick up next week with an update from Elisa on her trek through Missoula and Glacier, MT, where she has begun working on her third and final large-scale piece for the Midway Gallery’s fall 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 with all artists in attendance.
Written by Vanessa Wilson
All images provided by the artist.