I am holding a photograph of a life-size, three-quarter, medium-contrasted view of a cast-plaster portrait of a young girl, titled, Jill, created by Elena Zebrauskaite-Weir in the 1960s. Artists make things using material to connect to the world and to self. For many of us the beginning of 2021, has been a time of separation and loss. This is the permanent human condition of relating to objects artists have made. Due to pandemic closures, I am meeting additional challenges of access to Elena’s material work. I meet these challenges by bringing forward my memories of the artist, knowledge of her desires and working life.
Elena’s portrait of Jill was an artist’s effort to connect with the world. Looking over the details in the photograph, I see the texture, as pronounced by lighting, the deeply-set, exaggerated, shape of the eyes, nose and lips, and the elongated, cylindrical neck. These articulations indicate Elena’s classical European training along with her Modernist desire toward abstraction. The surface is not smooth, created by the application of pinches of soft, wet clay in the direct additive process of making the portrait before generating a plaster mold. The carved indentations in the clay and uneven surface allow light to break into the solidity of form. Revealed is the hand and heart of the artist, her involvement in Modernist struggles to break free of traditions and engage with her present. The viewer is allowed access to a moment in the creation of Jill.
Susan Gold / Smith, artist and Professor Emerita (University of Windsor School of Visual Arts), was born in Detroit Michigan (1946), became a Canadian Citizen in 1986, and continues her work as a visual artist. She co-founded one ten park: a working space (2012) as an experimental, community engaged studio space in Downtown Windsor. There she develops community and international projects for installations and experiments in alternative art practice. Susan Gold’s work has been exhibited in Canada and Internationally. A current project, Roundness is a Ratio, will be exhibited in 21 at La Maison Gallery in Winnipeg Manitoba.