ILLINOIS HISTORICAL ART PROJECT
ELIZABETH COLWELL was born near Bronson, Michigan, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and with B. J. Olson-Nordfeldt. She has painted in New York, Vermont and Kentucky. Her work has been exhibited in this country in Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit and San Francisco. Abroad it has been exhibited in Rome. She was awarded the bronze medal for prints at the Panama-Pacific Exposition and is represented in the Print Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Print Collection of the Los Angeles Art Museum, also in various private collections. Her work has been written about in newspapers of Chicago and elsewhere and in The Graphic Arts, by Alice Rouiller and others.
Form is the basis of my work. It is created by light and made lyrical by line and color. These three things give it significance: light, line, color. Light separates form from form, makes fullness and solidity of each object and creates the sense of space, as in nature. Lines make the interrelation of parts, the pattern, and color contributes beauty. Lines are very important-their use exceedingly meaningful. Lines may reach upward and give the feeling of aspiration, move horizontally and denote space, flow into each other and away from each other, and weave exciting and restless patterns. They may move into a picture in the form of a road, a stream, drapery about a still-life and give the feeling of depth. Form is that which is selected, and the "significance of form" lies in the importance of what is selected from a multitude of forms about us, landscapes, buildings, people, still life. After the first selection, that of matter, further selection takes place, and elimination, a continuous refinement of selection and arrangement. And the mood must be sustained. If the mood is lost that which gives the picture its esthetic value is also lost. Abstract designs are meaningless if divorced from life, meaningful if revealing mysticism, as for instance, hands reaching upward and outward from the stress and confusion, the confusion of consciousness, and forming an egg-shaped mold-the unconscious. Then consider another design: A rose at the center, the heart of things-yellow, for light, all about it, then arcs and arcs of colder colors receding away from it. All the arcs are conventionalized rose petals, all receding from or advancing toward the mystic center, the rose, the mystic flame. Hands, again, reaching upward into great space, room, more and more room-reaching upward from rocks, symbolic of deadening conventions, yet something to which we are inevitably bound. In designs such as these the observer becomes identified with the artist, weaving his own thoughts and experiences into them and through them. Influences are thick about one. Too thick in America to allow us to become indigenous. Yet I am of America, mixed though my inheritances may be. Yes, distinctly of America. How can I help but reflect my surroundings? The faces I see, the country I know, the forms all about me? Yet some spiritual strain predominates in me of an older people, a quieter people, one that loves stillness and order, meditation and poetic joys, dreams and the reflective life. Elizabeth Colwell.