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Eight Questions With Local Artist Elizabeth Zvonar

Photo of the artist by Sean Alward. Elizabeth is represented by Toronto’s Daniel Faria Gallery.

Local artist Elizabeth Zvonar is largely known for her surreal collages, like the one gracing the cover of BC band Lightning Dust’s new album Spectre, released earlier this month.

She’s also a guest instructor at Mobil Art School, where she teaches the Fundamentals of Collage (registration for her October class has passed but keep an eye out for future openings). We recently posed a short list of questions to Zvonar with the hope of getting a glimpse into her artfully rearranged universe…

First of all, what is your relationship with Lightning Dust? Tell me about the process of selecting the image for Spectre. Amber and Josh and I have peripherally known each other for many years, and I think it’s safe to assume we all like and respect what each other is doing. They got in touch with me through a mutual friend and let me know what they were looking for. Then I gave them a bunch of images to look through and they narrowed down to the image they chose through that process.

How do you decide that a project or collaboration is right for you? Who would you ideally like to work with? It would be pretty cool to work with someone who has long passed. What would that conversation look like? George Eliot or Djuna Barnes back from the dead? What if they wanted a new book cover and for some weird slip in time we ended up having a chat. I have so many questions for them and so many things to update them on. But seriously, working with Amber and Josh is the ideal. It’s the people and the context or project first. I want to like who I’m working with and their work.

If I’m correct, the image that was chosen for Spectre is pulled from your portfolio, circa 2013. What is it like to revisit your past artwork? What sort of insights does looking back at your body of work? I made Face a while ago and it took some time to figure out some display details. When it has shown in a gallery, it’s propped up by a pair of bronze stiletto shoes with a finger that holds each side in place. It leans against a wall for support and it’s mounted on aluminum and stands about 4’ tall. It’s a slow burn for me when I make work. I can learn new things when I spend some time with it again. Titles often come slowly and can play a part in the eventual meaning of a work. I get a kick out of playing with words. It’s a fun game.

“Thinking is productive. I advocate for time spent thinking and listening and contributing when you’ve got something to say.”

What role does music play in your creative process? I like all sorts of music and sometimes I like to (over) listen to something specific while I’m in the zone of making a show and other times I need to 4’33” it a bit and listen for the birds and the wind or the wheels burning on the pavement.

Your collages envision and capture surreal experiences and places. What “otherworld” are you currently immersed in? Currently I’m rereading Jenny Odell’s How to do Nothing, Resisting the Attention Economy. It’s a great read. She’s an artist in Oakland CA and she argues for spending time in nature, with people, with animals – whatever floats your boat really, but make sure you’re not freaking out about your likes. Her art references are top notch, she shares a lot of great research and I’m easily swayed by her argument. She’s on to something.

Next up, I’m delving into the world of Andrea Dworkin. Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholder compiled and edited Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin. Should be a deep dive into a more thorough understanding of her thinking and what she was actually saying over the mutated caricature her own time painted of her. Can’t wait!

What “real world” topical issues are you compelled to tackle next and what conversations would you like to initiate? I am worried about the state of the nation whether it’s here, there or somewhere else entirely. As Barbara Deming wrote, We Are All Part of One Another. What happens in your sandbox makes a difference in someone else’s. I like the idea that whatever it is I’m doing or whatever choices you’re making can give someone else a moment of pause, to stop and think. Thinking is productive. I advocate for time spent thinking and listening and contributing when you’ve got something to say.

Tell me about a time that you’ve witnessed your artwork making an impact. I don’t know. I’ve had some unexpected compliments at times and that’s always nice but unclear how it may have impacted someone. I die a little sometimes when I see movies or art that affects me or if I hear music or read a book that I really connect to but these tend to be contextual and personal experiences.

What new projects can we expect to see from you in the next year or so? I’ve got some new work developing in the studio for some projects here in Vancouver that are in early stage development. As well, I’m quite excited to be working toward an exhibition in Quebec that thinks through the body and nature through the lens of strange beauty.

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