Artist of the Week

Elizabeth Atterbury

November 19, 2012

Elizabeth Atterbury received an MFA from MassArt in 2011. She currently has work up at Document in Chicago and has shown at Bodega, the Tyler School of Art, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and the Chelsea Art Museum. She lives and works in Portland, Maine and is a Visiting Lecturer in Art at Bowdoin College.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.  I was born in Florida and currently live in Portland, Maine with Joe Kievitt, also an artist and my husband, Rosco the dog, and a cat named Champ.  I make photographs and teach photography at Bowdoin College.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like?  I use film, shoot with a medium (6×7) and large format (4×5) camera, and print in the darkroom.  A year ago, I began working in black and white again after a long time of only shooting color.  The decision was practical at first.  With color analog printing getting phased out and the discontinuing of materials (paper specifically), I knew I had two choices: switch to digital or start making silver gelatin prints. Not to say that I am anti-digital at all. I just really love the darkroom. I love the physical process of making prints in the dark. I will miss that printing color. Fortunately, I still have access to a color processor through BPiC, a darkroom just outside of Portland, so for now, all’s well.

Recently, my process involves making objects out of paper, wood, cardboard, and clay.  I set up my camera and establish a surface – wall, floor, or other – and then arrange and rearrange the objects.  I take a picture when things feel right. Sometimes it takes a very long time for this to happen.


How has your work developed within the past year? Very quickly towards abstraction.

How did your interest in art begin? Like so many artists, I’ve been interested in art since I was a kid, but I’m not sure I’d call this the beginning.  I loved drawing and working with clay.  It was a pure, uncomplicated love. In high school, I became interested in looking at art, though making it suddenly felt difficult and confusing, so I stopped and focused on writing.  I studied literary journalism in college, and in my third year I decided to take a photography class. That was the beginning. I went to a very liberal college where students custom-tailor their majors and spend the final year working exclusively on a single self-directed project. The writing professor I had worked with for three years – my mentor and the reason I had decided to come to this college – was on sabbatical and this somehow set me free – lost, albeit – to do what I pleased, and I chose photography. I spent a year making a body of work that, looking back, was a shamelessly indulgent self-exploration.  Nevertheless, it was during college that I discovered the thing I love doing most.


What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? My friend Paula’s house, painting, Bauhaus staging and set design, Paul Outerbridge’s still lifes.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m beginning a group of new photographs, a continuation of sorts from the work in Photography Indoors, and some larger sculptures that will involve shaping big pieces of wood and pushing mortar around on flat surfaces with a trowel. I’m also in the early stages of a book project with Bodega Press.

What artists are you interested in right now? Mono-Ha artists, Diane Itter, Eileen Quinlan, Moholy-Nagy, Tomma Abts.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Lucio Fontana at Gagosian, Jedediah Caesar at D’Amelio, Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-Ha at Blum & Poe.


What do you do when you’re not working on art? Look at things, home repairs, cook, play tennis, clean, work, apply to jobs, eat, drink, return phone calls, fall asleep on the couch, pester my husband, pester the cat, think about the next step.

Any current or upcoming shows we should know about? I have work up at Document now through December 8.  The show, Photography Indoors, includes 12 small photographs of temporary constructions and 2 dimensional compositions I made and shot in the studio.