Artist Lizzie Gill
January 24, 2022
Do Lizzie Gill’s mixed-media collages criticize or celebrate the past?
Text by Nathaniel Reade
Lizzie Gill could print the found images she uses in her collages directly onto her canvases. Instead, the Sharon-based artist chooses a laborious, arm-tiring, weeks-long image-transfer process of gluing printed paper to the canvas, letting it dry, then carefully scrubbing off the back of the paper with plastic Brillo pads. Why? Because she enjoys digging down through the layers of time and discovering new things, like an archeologist would remove layers of soil. “It excites me,” she says. “I’m layering images and layering time.”
An earnest thirty-two-year-old who works in a tidy barn-turned-studio overlooking Litchfield County’s peaks, Gill demonstrates this same archeological proclivity in the rest of her methods. She used to dig down through layers of old magazines in thrift stores and vintage shops to find the iconic, idyllic images of the Baby Boom era she likes: a perfectly coiffed suburban housewife on the sofa (Poised & Ready), an actress on the beach (Summer Solstice), a pipe-smoking Ward Cleaver type (Single For a Reason (Again)). Now she also scours the Internet, which allows her to venture farther back in ti me than the supply of old magazines permitted, for instance to images by old masters from sixteenth-century Holland.
Once she’s glued her found images to the canvas and scrubbed off the paper pulp, Gill’s layering of time and materials continues. She adds textures and colors with glazes, modern acrylics, silk screen, and spray paint. The result, she says, is “textured layers of history” that, when combined, create a time of their own.
Gill’s interest in time travel began early in life, following her father to auctions and flea markets. Her stockbroker grandfather’s New York City apartment was so filled with early American treasures, including a painting of the White House that now hangs in the White House, that it felt to her like a “very delicate museum.” Her father so voraciously collected old trains and planes that she refers to his hobby as “eclectic hoarding” and says she became something of a minimalist as a result.
So, is her art a way to celebrate the past or to get over it? Gill isn’t sure. “I think there is a sadness in my work,” she says. “Nostalgia can be a type of sadness about a time that’s passed. It is also a way to pay homage.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lizzie Gill’s work will be exhibited at Troutbeck in Amenia, New York, from January 15–February 27. Visit troutbeck.com for details. To see more of Gill’s work, visit lizziegill.com.