Elaine Luther presents her fascinating mixed media portfolio, and shares good advice for artists building their businesses.
ABI: How does your work have meaning beyond the object itself?
EL: The medals and the Our Ladies are very relatable, people understand them. Though a few are relatable by a select few. The medal, “The Society of Mothers of Dead Babies” is a moving piece to fellow moms who’ve lost a child, they understand it in a way that others don’t. There’s an undercurrent of protest in some of my pieces – protesting war, protesting housework (while simultaneously elevating housework by monumentalizing it with silver leaf).
ABI: What materials do you use? How have they changed over time?
EL: I’ve gone from working with metal and metal clay to working with whatever I can lay my hands on to get my message across. When I started doing mixed media collage paintings in 2011, this whole new section of the art supply store opened up to me.
Gel medium is terrific stuff! I can use it for image transfers, as a glue. I never used to have much color in my jewelry, but my medals and Our Ladies are quite colorful.
I’ve also been using silver leafing a lot, as a way to transform the objects I work with, to elevate them from the everyday and get you to look at them in a new way.
ABI: How are you selling and exhibiting your work?
EL: I sell my jewelry at Woman Made Gallery, the Illinois Artisans Shops and on my own website. I exhibit my sculptures and paintings at galleries and non-profit spaces including libraries. I just had a solo show called, “Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework,” at a Chicago Public Library. I also sell images of my Our Ladies series on T-shirts and cards, as well as prints.
ABI: As a speaker, you lecture on different topics for artists. What is your best advice for artists starting out?
EL: “Stay stupid,” which is a quote from Steven Pressfield. If we knew the odds, if we knew what we were up against, we might give up. Don’t find out. Don’t do the research. Keep your head down, do the work and stay stupid!
Play to your strengths. In school we’re always taught to bring up our weak areas. Why not outsource those weak areas as best we can and find ways to be in business that make the most of what we’re awesome at doing? If you love to write, in addition to making your art, blog to promote it. Love to talk? Podcast. Friendly and outgoing? Do outdoor shows. Shy and retiring? Sell through galleries and stores. Trying to force ourselves to do the things we’re awful at and dread is usually unsuccessful. Go the other way.