My very first artistic inspiration was a simple children’s book written in Italian, my native language, narrating the inception of the world and moving on to the cavemen, the invention of the chariot, and the Roman gladiators. Even now I remember my mother sitting next to me, turning the pages and reading the words out loud. Except, at the tender age of four, I wasn’t as captivated by the writing but mostly by the art. In my mind I began to weave an intricate story of my own, imagining the lives of the caveman holding sticks in his hands and a spark of fire glowing on the ground. The images before me leaped out of the book and immediately found a place in my heart.
Art has always held a special place in my life and has been the single motivator that inspires all of my stories, characters and worlds that exist in my imagination. Often those stories are created when I run across art that absorbs me into itself. Artist Elisabeth Ladwig is one of those artists whose work speaks volumes. I first came to view her work when working as a co-editor for Mind Key’s second anthology, Yin and Yang: The Duality of Balance. Her work caught my eye and spoke to my soul. I decided to check out her website, Elisabeth On Earth, and immediately realized how multidimensional and soulful her art is. Elisabeth lives in West Milford with her husband and finds that living in the New Jersey Highlands offers immense opportunities and inspiration for photographs. Outside one of her home windows stands a forty-foot pear tree, which local bears visit in August. That’s the location for her picture “Truce”.
As I aim to provide inspirational content that relates to art and writing, I knew I had to reach out to her. She accepted to feature on my blog and shared some of her philosophy on art, nature and finding magic in every aspect of life.
‘Elisabeth on Earth’- Is there a special meaning to this chosen title/name?
It actually started as an email address. I didn’t know I would use it professionally one day. What resonates most with me is that the name encompasses both the spiritual and the mundane. While I relate spiritually to Mother Nature and try to learn and grow from that path, I am also very aware that I live in the “real” world with the rest of humanity.
Your ‘About Me’ page mentions your inspiration stems from elements of science, nature and magic. This is beautifully depicted in all of your works. How did you first discover this connection and how do you feel it plays out in everyday life?
I’m not sure what sparked my childhood fascination with the inexplicable. I was in the sixth grade when I announced to my parents that I wanted to do my science fair project on ESP, *laughs*. I can only imagine what they were thinking when I told them. My pitch was that, if ESP exists, then there must be a natural/scientific reason for it that we just don’t understand; otherwise, it wouldn’t happen. I watched the TV show “Little House on the Prairie” growing up, and explained that Laura Ingalls would have thought our televisions to be magic boxes.
As an adult, I came to nearly equate the three – science, nature, and magic -and exploring their connections fueled my interest in learning about our true potential in our daily lives, about how we can manifest meaningful positive change, about perspective, awareness, and subjectivity. I return to these themes regularly when I get stuck in my own life, and they tend to appear in my work even when I haven’t planned it.
Your artwork is very profound and allows the viewer to interpret the images in so many ways. I find that every detail spills over with a certain emotional response, but it’s not a clear-cut feeling (for me at least). In a way I see your art as ever changing depending on my mood, time of day, and thoughts running through my head. It evokes an emotive response that seems to defy time. For example, in “Gift”, I find several different emotions wrapped in one. As an artist, do you go through the same array of emotions when creating your work?
I do sometimes, though I find I’m more emotionally attached at the beginning and towards the end of the process. For example, when I am doing initial brainstorming for an image, I am thinking a lot about the relationships between the elements, what makes them magical, and what they might represent metaphorically. Is the image flowing or still? Vibrant or soft? Is the subject responding to the setting, or is the setting responding to her -or both? What is the subject feeling – or teaching?
Timelessness and anonymity often play a big part in the style (and are very intentional) for the purpose of offering a variety of interpretations. By the time I get to the actual shoot and start work in post, I am concentrating more on the quality of the art. Sometimes the original idea just doesn’t work, so I have to be open to unexpected plot twists. “Gift”, for example, wasn’t supposed to have a bird in it at all. That dilapidated shed was on our property when we bought our house and we found several toys inside from probably 30 years ago. I wanted to use the toys to tell the story about a girl looking back on her childhood, but just it wasn’t working *laughs*. My images look pretty bad on screen for a long time before they come together. Enter the hawk—it was right at home and I was so excited. Towards the end, an image will speak to me more on an emotional level again, once it’s no longer an eyesore and I’m putting the finishing touches on it. However, I admit that I sometimes finish a piece and am not sure what it’s about because of the variety of interpretations and emotions. My initial ideas develop pretty organically/intuitively; it’s not until later that I try to really understand them -subjectively, of course.
What other art form inspires you?
I do love collage art and mixed media, but I think theme inspires me more so than medium. For example, Petah Coyne (sculptor/photographer), Remedios Varo (painter), and Maggie Taylor (digital collage artist) are all inspirations despite their very different art forms.
Because I’m a writer I was instantly drawn by your work, “The Writer”(featured at the very top of the page). It incorporates the dreamy solitude, the mindless passion and the magical affair that comes along with writing. Can you share the making of this artwork?
The biggest challenge in making The Writer was the wardrobe. I don’t own a white prairie dress, so I had to use whatever I could find in the closet, layering the clothes in a way that they could be pieced together digitally later on ~ two vintage slips, a silk undershirt, a ruffled blouse, and some socks that I had cut the feet off of to make some sort of elbow-to-wrist arm warmers. The floating typewriter belonged to my grandmother. In my original sketch, the plan was to have the paper twist and turn towards the sky, not the smoke, but it just wasn’t working. In the end, photographs of clouds were used to create the smoke, The backdrop is actually a sunrise off the coast of Maine, and the rock was photographed on a hike in New Jersey.
Your work is represented in art galleries throughout the U.S. What’s next on the agenda? Any future collections you may want to hint at?
Well, my current project is a creepy graveyard scene (I’ve always had a love for the macabre), and I’m hoping to get started on a piece to accompany “Gift” and “Truce” so that they become a series of images showing one-on-one interactions between subject and animal. I’m also working on a couple new products, but I think I’ll keep those a surprise for now.
Want to see Elisabeth’s video of stills that show the creative process behind “Against Time”? Check it out here!
A huge thank-you to Elisabeth Ladwig whose work has inspired me to dig up my Canon Rebel and Photoshop to resume a decade old hobby.
To view Elisabeth’s art collection and to shop her art, please visit her website. When you purchase any of her work you can contribute to one of three charities: National Audubon Society, Cuipo, and The Sierra Club, all environmental organizations to conserve ecosystems, wildlife, climate and more.
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