Conversations with the Inspiring Elizabeth Tinglof

Image Credit: Kristine Schomaker


Voyage LA March 25, 2019

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Tinglof.

Elizabeth, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Telling your story when you have been down so many roads seems a bit daunting. But if I focus on the path, my work has taken over the years, it will be like skipping to the pages that have the pictures. Making art for me began as young as I can remember, but it was always spoken of as my “little hobby.” I received my BFA from Otis/Parsons (which is what it was called at the time), then began working at whatever artistic based jobs I could find. Still, I kept making art whether, in the bathroom or kitchen, there was always something being made.

My first solo exhibition was a series of polaroid transfers depicting nudes with historical paintings projected on them. The show was in 1993 in Venice at West Side Beach Cafe during the time when owner Bruce Marder was creating a connection between food, art, and artists. It may seem strange to have your first show at a restaurant but West Side Beach Cafe, with pristine white walls and a scene that generated the kind of patrons that you would see today if you went gallery hopping, was the perfect place for an emerging artist. Organized by gallerist Robert Berman, the works were untitled but well received and I was fortunate to sell a few pieces at the opening. This small success began my career and subsequently led to the Robert Berman Gallery representing me for a number of years.

Simultaneous to this period, I was raising my two children. The first being born in 1993, the same year, I had my first show. My studio practice was always a mix of them and the work which made for an interesting balance of chaos and fulfillment that I can see reflected in the work of that time.

In 2009, I went back to school for my MFA at California State University, Northridge, which I completed in 2012. I’m not sure what I expected, but it was like starting all over. I suppose that is why I did it, a chance to evolve. Since then, I’ve been invited to participate in a number of group and solo shows. I have also co-founded the artist collective Rough Play Collective, responsible for organizing large group shows in Los Angeles County as well as founded Rough Play Projects, a site-specific installation space in Joshua Tree, CA. The Rough Play Projects inaugural show was in April 2018 called “Available to All ” that was highlighted in Palm Springs Life Magazine.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are always obstacles, especially for a parent who would like to balance the world of their children while maintaining themselves and their work. With children or without, certain principles are constant. The most important principle to me was doing things out of my comfort zone. That usually meant saying yes to everything. I never wanted to be perceived as incapable because I was a mother. This fear began because I was told by someone notable in the art world at the time, that now that I was pregnant “I was done.”

Unfortunately, to a certain extent that was partly true. I worked slower and it was harder to network but it was saying yes to that show in 1993 that saved me. I had built a foundation that I wasn’t going to give up. So, still recovering from my c-section, I was asked if I could move my show up because of a cancellation, my show was supposed to be three months out. I said yes.

If I could give any advice to other female artists, it would be that if the established or institutional avenues seem closed to you, find new pathways to create opportunities. Connecting with your community and then sharing those opportunities can generate success on many levels. One of the ways I have connected to so many artists is by curating. When your head is always so full of ideas, but they don’t necessarily have a focus within your own work, those ideas can feed your creative energy in other ways. In September 2018, I had the privilege of curating a show titled, “She”, highlighting contemporary artists portraying the female persona referencing historical imagery for Launch LA gallery on La Brea. The process, however foreign it may seem for an artist to be on the other side, actually felt very creative. Interestedly, until I was invited to write my story I hadn’t realized that the content for the “She” exhibition had brought me full circle back to the content of my first show.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I’m interested in the exploration of materiality and process. By fusing the nature and history of painting with sculpture and installation, I create layered abstract objects that function first as a deconstructive conversation and evolve to one of reconstruction, experimentation, and reinvention.

In 2018, besides participating in several group shows, I had a solo installation/performance piece I did for the “Window Dressing” series in the large vitrine of Cerritos College Art Gallery. Titled “A Thin Thread To Balance”, which addressed the process of grief through conversations around gender, exposure, and symbolic penance. The primary sculpture within the installation was an abstracted torso composed of resin attached to a traditional dressmaking mannequin stand surrounded by a wire “cage crinoline.” In addition to the main sculptural piece, an intricate, twisted wire element emanated from the back of the torso, stretching from one end of the space to the other, climbing up the walls to the ceiling creating a vine-like quality.

My latest project was a six-week residency at Shoebox Projects, LA Brewery which culminated into a solo exhibition called, “Won’t Pray.’ Beginning with an inverted abstract tree rooted in the ceiling by a system of twisted wires and reflected in fragments of mirror below, the installation spoke to relationships between a series of objects in various mediums. Through historic, symbolic and metaphoric references, I built a construct of tension between belief and illusion, delving into the process of reevaluation and the blind acceptance of truths.

It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
I do quite a bit of research through multiple sources when I want to write about a concept or create a curatorial brief but I especially like a series of books called, Documents Of Contemporary Art, published by White Chapel Gallery in London and MIT Press. When I am looking for inspiration for my work I read poetry. One of my favorite poets is Anna Akhmatova.