Meet Local Artist Elizabeth D'Amico
Every week I highlight a local Upper Valley artist or maker. I give them a list of questions and they choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. I hope you enjoy meeting our local artists!
This week I'd like to introduce you to Elizabeth D'Amico, multi-media artist
Fix It, multi-media collage
Bio and History:
Elizabeth D’Amico has taught art full time in both public and private schools on all levels, kindergarten through grade twelve. Before joining the faculty at Plymouth State University in 2002, she served as a mentor for PSU art education students. At the close of the 2013 spring semester, she became a full time artist and continues to teach occasionally at community venues.
As a direct result of her extensive teaching experience, Elizabeth continues to explore a variety of media enjoying mixed media collage, painting, printmaking, and sculpture most. She draws inspiration from nature and the beauty to be found there. Her focus is often climate change and humanity’s involvement with it. She is interested in reclaiming and recycling and sees her work as being part of that process. Elizabeth exhibits regularly and her work is in private collections locally and nationally.
In addition to being a member of NHAA, Elizabeth is a member of the Women’s Caucus for the Arts, the Alliance for the Visual Arts (AVA) in Lebanon, NH, and a signature member of the National Collage Society. Locally, she has been an active Board Member for the Center for the Arts – Lake Sunapee Region and coordinator of its Visual Arts Guild.
As a professional musician and an avid gardener, Elizabeth’s interests and involvement relate to areas beyond, but related to, the visual arts. Her education background includes a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University and a Masters degree from Columbia University with additional graduate studies at the Hartt School of Music. She lives with her husband, Andrew, in Springfield, NH. To read a more complete statement and resume, visit www.elizabethdamico.com
Fells Garden - plein air oil painting on canvas in private collection
How did you get started with art? Have you had any training?
My earliest memories of feeling that I was an artist began as soon as I could hold a crayon and draw. I remember when in kindergarten, I absolutely adored painting at an easel and can still vividly see a portrait I painted on bright purple construction paper of a soldier in army uniform and his bride-to-be in a white gown. There is some connection between that image and my uncle, my father’s youngest brother, who was the very first person I had ever seen in uniform. I’m not quite sure why I remember that image so well except that it may have been the way my teacher responded to it. Knowing what I know now as an art educator about developmental schematic drawing, it probably was quite a remarkable drawing!
Throughout grade school, I was considered the “class artist” and so it continued throughout most of my education until university level. As an undergraduate I was torn between majoring in art and something more practical that would guarantee a career – as I was advised. I majored in English and minored in education, but never stopped thinking of myself as an artist and musician. I even wrote a promise to myself that I would continue as an artist and so I did – coming full circle to become certified in art education via an alternative program which enabled me to teach both art and music in public schools. As I look back on it all now, I do not regret any of my decisions.
Do you make art for a living? If so, for how long have you been about to do that?
I have taught in both private and public schools for over forty years – English, music and art. For twelve years I taught both music and art simultaneously in the same school district – part time for each created a full time teaching position. I would say I’ve made a living from my art skills.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
During summers as a college student, I was a Red Cross Water Safety instructor and lifeguard. I have also been a professional musician since that time as well – as an organist and keyboard accompanist having played for countless weddings, funerals and Sunday services for many different denominations – not to mention running a Suzuki piano studio at my home for five years! It should also be said that I’ve had one the most important jobs of all – being a mother and now grandmother!
If you don't make your living doing art, what do you do in "real life"?
Happily, I have been able to make a living using my art skills as an art educator.
How much time do you spend doing art?
It’s difficult to say since I am almost always thinking about art, but the actual studio time varies and gets squeezed in no matter what!
Finding Our Way - mixed media box assemblage
How do you work?
My work is a thoughtfully worked out puzzle that begins with totally unrelated found objects that somehow work their way into a unified whole. I have been told that my work draws the viewer in and gets them thinking as well as questioning what the work is about and how or why it came to be. Often my work begins by collecting found objects that just seem to “work” together with no particular theme, rhyme or reason or something is included simply because I am fascinated with its shape or color. As I continue to manipulate these “pieces” I discover their meaning. Rarely do I begin with an idea and then look for objects and images that will carry out that idea.
The opposite is often true when I am painting, working with clay (ceramics) or printmaking. There, I usually begin with an idea or concept and then develop it. Still there are usually unexpected turns or twists while working and that is all part of the process.
Do you have a routine?
Ideally, if there were no other life responsibilities, I enjoy going directly from rising out of bed into my studio. If I’m lucky enough to be able to do that, then I’ll work uninterrupted for an hour or two (always seems like five minutes). Of course, life does get in the way and one of the beauties of having a studio is to be able to leave whatever you are working on and go take care of whatever else needs doing and then return to your art work and hopefully, pick up right where you left off. Both mixed media collage and assemblage are perfectly suited to this way of working! Printmaking and ceramics not so much! As I age, I find the stamina needed to work long hours becomes less; therefore, I really appreciate being able to work in shorter time blocks/sessions.
I still find myself working more by the seasons and as light changes from one season to the next. For example, most of the winter and early spring are devoted to indoor studio work on collage and assemblage whereas the summer months are devoted more to painting en plein air. In the fall, I usually enjoy working with encaustics. Printmaking often requires a press and therefore happens when I have access to a press – usually in the summer or in January.
Where do you work? What is your studio/space like?
This room was our daughter’s old bedroom! I have to walk to another room for a sink. When I was teaching full time, I often used the classroom after classes – plenty of room to spread out! I still have access occasionally to the printmaking studio at PSU when it is not in use.
What are your passions outside of art? What's something non-creative that you do to balance and recharge?
Reading, walking (daily), gardening, baking/cooking using many of the organic veggies I grow, swimming, playing keyboard (both professionally and for relaxation), sewing/quilting to name a few. Come to think of it though, most of these activities have their creative side☺
What medium/media do you use? Why do you like it/them?
I’ve sampled and taught just about every medium and would never be able to select my favorite except to say that what I enjoy most is combining many difference media into a mixed media work. In fact, most of my work now is mixed media. Having said that, I still have periods when I enjoy focusing on just painting with one medium – either oil, acrylic or watercolor. I also enjoy printmaking when I have access to an etching press.
What medium have you tried that you don't like?
I don’t think there is one that I don’t like or at least I haven’t discovered it yet!
If you had only one kind of art supply to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Found objects and images for mixed media collage – there’s an unlimited supply!
What do you do with pieces you don't like?
They are torn up and recycled into new creations.
Lean On Me - mixed media ceramic sculpture
Creation and Inspiration
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere – sometimes from the smallest clipping or memory.
How do you get started on a piece?
Usually whenever an idea or motivation hits and I become obsessed with it. At other times, I spend what seems like forever, planning things out – working and re-working.
How do you know when you're done?
That’s a difficult question to answer because there can be so many reasons depending upon the type of work, but the simple answer would be when I am completely satisfied with a piece. Of course, revising it after time has passed, that can totally change. I am currently in the process of recycling “old” work. Open Fields is an example of that since it is composed of pieces of art torn from other works – watercolors, collagraphs, acrylic paintings on paper, monotypes, etc.
What/who inspires you?
The beauty I find in nature inspires me most. But if I were to pick a person, it would be someone I just met recently – Varujan Boghosian who just had an exhibition at the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH. He is in his nineties yet still continues to work as an artist. As an educator, artist and someone who also grew up in Connecticut and moved to NH to teach, he and I have some similarities, but the most striking is our love and interest in found objects – not an object, but one that moves us to create an assemblage or collage. I’ll admit that I often wonder why I am so attracted (addicted?) to the process, but it does seem well suited for someone of a certain age!
What's the best thing about being an artist? What's the worse?
The rewards of knowing when a work is truly finished – the frustrations that inevitably occur with the art process.
What makes you unique as an artist?
Every artist is unique simply because every person is unique. If your art is an authentic expression of you then that is what is unique!
How do you get past a creative block?
Just by beginning to work…
What is your dream project?
To have access to completely unlimited paints and canvas – to work really HUGE!!! I’ve helped students design and complete wall murals – such fun! Ah, to be young again and try it solo rather than simply act as an advisor!
What are your fears as an artist?
I don’t believe I have any. By nature, artists are fearless. They must always be willing to take risks.
What's the best piece of advice (or a quote) you've been given regarding art and creativity?
I helped design and teach at course at Plymouth State University called Creativity and the Visual World as well as a First Year Seminar class with the focus on creativity…you probably don’t want me to get into answering this question fully, because I could go on and on forever!
Tango I - collagraph in private collection
About Art and Artists
What do people not realize about being an artist?
That it’s HARD work!!! Often all consuming in that an artist is never “off duty” – very often I find I awake in the morning with a solution to whatever problem I was trying to “solve” in my work or I fall off to sleep at night thinking about all the possibilities of where my current work is going. At times solutions come quickly, but usually not without a great deal of preparation of thinking about the work.
What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?
Curiosity, willingness to take risks, always doubting and questioning your work looking to change/improve and grow, and continually observing your environment and the people around you with a critical eye are all part of being an artist. Scientists and artists share a similar need to observe in detail.
What do you admire in other artists?
Perseverance and willingness to grow and change.
Is there an artist you particularly admire/emulate/enjoy? Why?
There are so many throughout art history, I guess I would have to say the artist that fascinates me the most is the one I am interested in at any particular time. A common practice in teaching art is to introduce students to art history by having them work in the style or medium of a particular artist. Everyone from the unknown cave artists to contemporary Modernists have been part of a past lesson plan and have often led to my own experiments in particular medium or style of a particular artist. I am fascinated with the work of Joseph Cornell. I also enjoy employing methods used by the surrealists. Plein air painting has led me to study and appreciate the work of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Pissarro to name but a few. Matisse is my idol for color, shape and composition. Kathe Kollwitz for drawing and printmaking… I could go on and on…
Karner Blues - mixed media oil monotype in public collection
Sharing Your Art
Do you accept commissions?
Yes. I once had someone request a plein air painting similar to the one a friend of hers had purchased. My answer was, “I would be happy to paint that view again, but it will never be exactly the same as the first because the day will be different and I will be different!” I repainted the scene from Sunapee Harbor and it was quite different, but the buyer loved it!
Do you offer classes/workshops?
At AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, NH - So far, drawing, printmaking, collage and a class called Finding Your Medium of Choice where students sampled a variety of media. I also feel comfortable offering almost any type of class/workshop since I taught for well over forty years and all grade levels from nursery school – university level.
Where is your favorite place to take a class/workshop (locally or otherwise)?
As an educator, I regularly took classes and workshops toward “Staff Development” and I always considered it a privilege to do so. Recently, I have not been able to take classes, but have continued to teach occasionally – an experience that continues to inspire.
Where can we find you/your work?
- Website: www.elizabethdamico.com (My website is in need of updating and I am hoping to do that during the upcoming winter months, but I often post works in progress and work to be shown locally on Facebook. My personal Facebook page is also filled with many photographs that should probably migrate to Instagram. I enjoy using my iPhone most as a camera and post “art” photographs frequently.)
- Current Exhibit - Northern Stage in WRJ September 15th and continuing through the first week of November. Opening reception - Free and open to the public, will take place as part of First Friday celebrations on Friday, October 6th, from 5 – 7pm.
- Galleries/Exhibits: This year my work was seen at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon, NH (Annual Juried Show), the National Collage Society (California), the League of NH Craftsman’s Fair in Sunapee, NH (NHAA Tent), the NHAA Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery in Portsmouth, NH, 2 Pillsbury Street in Concord, NH (through September), at Pease Library in Plymouth, NH (Women’s Caucus for the Arts), at the Center for the Arts Micro Gallery at the NL Inn in New London, NH. I am also part of the Center for the Arts Open Studies in the Sunapee area on Columbus Day Weekend – a variety of work will be on display at Protectworth Gallery and in my studio.
Would you like to be featured in "Meet the Local Artist"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
Last Week's Interview - Annette Picher Houston, Quilter and mixed-media artist
Next Week's Interview - TBD
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More about the author, Amy Fortier: Her Artist Interview