March 22, 2013

Elizabeth Austin paints enchanted landscapes on the reverse side of thick plastic panels. Her recent paintings, The Nocturnes, are set at night in a leafy forest. Richly colored in blues and greens, they include reflective pigment and collaged foil. Austin's paintings are both closely observed studies of nature and poetic evocations of wonder and melancholy.

Austin grew up in Chicago in a family that encouraged her early involvement in art. Her mother was a singer in the Chicago Lyric Opera, and her father was a lawyer with a keen interest in the latest developments in painting and sculpture. Austin remembers the importance of their regular visits to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, where she absorbed the work of Warhol, Marisol, and Christo, among others.

Austin studied studio art at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wl, focusing on drawing from life, a skill which forms the basis of her recent landscape paintings. After graduating in 1982, she apprenticed to Jill Sebastian, a mixed media artist and Steve Pevnick, a computer artist. Austin moved to New Hampshire in the mid-1980s and began producing large pastel drawings. In 1985, Austin started a series of performance art pieces which she pursued for the next ten years. These projects included both audience participation pieces and a one-woman play. During this period, Austin toured the United States extensively with her performances.


In the early 1980s, Austin started creating a series of one-of-a kind artist's books that used translucent plastic. A summer program at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies sparked Austin's interest in diffraction grating, the phenomenon which allows holograms to function. Austin's use of iridescent paint and of foil that reflects prismatic light grows directly out of this exploration. The artist has noted that these materials change appearance depending upon the position of the viewer, similar to the varied reactions of an audience to a live performance. From 1988-98, Austin produced paintings of waterfalls and streams, using collaged reflective elements. These lead directly into the artist current work, with their dream- like visions of nature.

Austin has shown her work extensively. Three exhibitions of her paintings were held in Chicago at the Jean Albano Gallery in the 1990s. Asch lives in Paris and New Hampshire.

John Mendelsohn