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Alumni Studio Visit: Elizabeth Hazan
June 14, 2021 · Alumni
NYSS: Describe a typical day in studio.
Elizabeth Hazan: Although I make both drawings with ink and watercolor on paper and oil on canvas paintings, I generally dive right into the painting I’ve been working on recently. When I get to the studio, I might sit down for a minute and try to gather where I was when I left the day before. I often have a couple of paintings going but there will be one that’s preoccupying me and usually after a night’s sleep I have fresh insight into how to tackle it. I paint with the canvases on the floor, a practice I started when I worked from collages laid out on the floor and that really is what led me into painting from a hovering, aerial view. Lately a lot of my paintings, though abstract, are edging toward landscape. They still have the feeling as if seen from above, with lines creating a field at the bottom and swooping up to lasso in the air of a sky area to make unusual shapes.
NYSS: Take us through your process. What are some of the parameters or problems you set up for yourself within your work?
EH: This body of work began with ink and watercolor drawings that were very exploratory at first. I didn’t intend to use them as road maps for making paintings but once I saw that I could, things took off. I try to keep the drawings very open like a stream of consciousness writing exercise. Part of me is tapping into something I want to convey, maybe a time of day, and part of me is thinking about formal things. In the few years I’ve been using watercolor, I go for the immediacy and strange colors they allow. I let it all bleed together and mix colors to try and surprise myself with new variations. I’ll then make smaller oil paintings from a select number of the drawings. I try to keep the freshness and immediacy of the watercolors but also get into what oil paint can do that’s different. If there’s a promising small painting, I’ll later make a large version. I do this all freehand so that each time they change and there are new possibilities and problems to figure out as I paint.
NYSS: How has your practice changed during this time of social distance? Have you had to adapt to a new way of working?
EH: Since last April, I found that painting has been a lifeline for me. Like a lot of artists, I brought work home at first, since we didn’t know what to expect when the City shut down. I spent a month or two solely making work on paper instead of going back and forth as I would normally. Even working shorter hours last summer sharing a space with my husband (the artist Steve Hicks who I met at the Studio School) I managed to make a steady amount of work. I went back to my studio in Brooklyn to work on larger paintings there and then returned full time at the end of August. I had a two person show this past November at Turn Gallery and that work was all made during the pandemic.
NYSS: What do you keep in the studio for inspiration? Reference material, books about particular artists, music, certain objects …
EH: I have books and catalogues all over my studio. I keep them stacked on the table and often open on the floor. The way I use line in these drawings and paintings was heavily influenced by a show of Gorky landscapes I saw at Hauser and Wirth. Right now, in addition to Gorky, I have books on Matisse, Bonnard, Joan Mitchell, Rothko, Henry Darger spread out as well as Katherine Bradford, Jennifer Packer, a Joanne Greenbaum catalogue and many others.
NYSS: Do you listen to anything while you work?
EH: When I first left the Studio School and had to teach myself how to spend long days in the studio alone, I used to listen to sports radio. I can hardly believe now that I could work through the din, but it felt like company. For a while I listened to Jazz and made geometric abstract paintings that related to the music. Now I’ll put on a playlist when I’m in a certain mood and I have a little turntable in my studio which can be a lot of fun.
NYSS: How did studying at the New York Studio School influence your work? Do you have a favorite memory?
EH: What is so unique about the Studio School is its focus on drawing, I was taught a range of approaches from many significant teachers there. That gave me a lasting resource to work things out, usually ahead of my paintings. I was there for Graham Nickson’s first Drawing Marathon and many subsequent ones. They were really exhilarating and rigorous and shook you from any kind of complacency about what you were doing on the paper. I had a fantastic drawing class my last year there with Elena Sisto. As my work turned more towards abstraction over the years, that class with Elena really came to shape how I approach making a painting.
NYSS: Are there any upcoming shows or projects on the horizon you would like to share?! And where can people see your work digitally?
EH: I had a show out at Duck Creek in East Hampton that just closed on June 6th that can also be seen at Duckcreekarts.org.