Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz is a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow in Painting whose work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Addison Gallery of American Art, and the Rose Art Museum.
Alongside an active career making and exhibiting paintings, sculptures and drawings, she has worked as a set designer with Peter Sellars on some of his most notable international productions.
Professor of Art Emerita of Wellesley College since 2008, Spatz-Rabinowitz now teaches Painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.
My paintings and sculptures have always dealt with pressing issues of societal and environmental breakdown. The landscapes in oil on cast, blackened plaster and rusted rebar from the 80’s and 90’s were not specifically about climate change, but they did embody disappearance, loss, and man-made encroachment on nature. In 2013 I was selected to travel to the North Pole on a tall ship as part of an artists residency – a trip that changed my life. All of my recent work is in direct response to what I saw there: the Arctic region being a place of searing beauty and isolation, extraordinary color, and disturbing evidence of human industrial intrusion.
My entire practice has been an attempt to strategize variously about the antipathy between expressive mimetic skill on the one hand and prevailing dogmas that require both coolness and flatness on the other. In the Arctic series I have been seeking ways to use my photographs, but to transcribe them into haptic, tactile surfaces that escape the fixed resonance of my original photograph. I sometimes lay photographic emulsions of archival ink into crevasses of abraded plaster and then paint over them: the tension between imagery created by pixels and that created by paint and brush is part of my strategy of questioning illusionism. Sometimes I juxtapose images of snow-capped mountains against sheets of rusted steel, which allude to the early industrialization of the Arctic. Currently I am printing my emulsions onto thin rice paper and then laminating the prints onto crumbled plaster bas reliefs.