Interview: Elizabeth Chiles

The flower and the bloom, no.12 © Elizabeth Chiles

Briana Prudhomme: Tell me a little bit about your process when you work, creating your extended images, diptychs, and triptychs, etc.

Elizabeth Chiles: In the presentation of all of my work, the installation, size of each image and sequence is important. I think taking control of the images and giving the viewer a concrete way to view them helps the reading of the work. It seems especially important in my work since the images are often ephemeral or abstract in nature and therefore don't lead down a narrative path. That openness is important to me and yet I have an idea about how the images build on each other and create a space, physical and psychological, so I need to show those relationships clearly.

For my recent series 'The flower and the bloom' I felt that the tension or expansion between images was important so I ended up working with small prints, spending many, many hours looking at images in relation to other images. When the pairings and sequences finally came together I taped the small prints together and kept looking at them until I was sure. Recently I printed the work at its final size and most of the images are 16 x 20 or 20 x 16. They still have a relationship to the body and they allow for the detail and texture in the images to be seen.
The flower and the bloom, no. 3 © Elizabeth Chiles
Briana Prudhomme: Does it usually take a few tries to be able to find the perfect match?

Elizabeth Chiles: Yes, many of the images can communicate with each other in different ways. It's important for me to remember what I would like to communicate and then to be clear that the pairings do that the connections are not too obscure or too flatfooted.

Briana Prudhomme: Do you ask other people's opinions after pairing them, or try and keep it to your own instincts?

Elizabeth Chiles: I make all of the choices myself and then I usually show them to a few trusted friends to gauge their responses.

Briana Prudhomme: Do you find yourself trying to put images together while you are shooting?

Elizabeth Chiles: No, if I shoot enough I will have the material I need to bring the work together.

The flower and the bloom, no. 13 © Elizabeth Chiles

Briana Prudhomme: Are there any inspirations for your series ‘The flower and the bloom’?

Elizabeth Chiles: The project is concerned with a quote that I read in a Joseph Campbell book called Myths of Light in which he reveals an antidote about Goethe going to India and finding that it was possible there to see both the fruit and the flower at the same time because there are not distinct seasons. That antidote created a strong visual in my mind and I loved the metaphor that things can be both fully developed and at the same time be arriving - these beautiful cycles in living. The pairings in 'The flower and the bloom' are both visual and conceptual in that they reveal the 'is' and 'is becoming' at the same time.
The flower and the bloom, no. 14 © Elizabeth Chiles
Briana Prudhomme: I also noticed that nature is something that is always apart of your work. Can you tell me a little bit about your reasoning behind that?

Elizabeth Chiles: Nature is everything. We are energy as are the plants, animals, stars, and rocks. For me nature is a starting point to understanding life, what it means to be. I have also found light and the texture of plant life to be strong metaphors for the questions I have needed to explore as a human being.

Briana Prudhomme: Do you have a favorite place in nature to shoot?

Elizabeth Chiles: I enjoy shooting in neighborhoods, parks, gardens and wooded areas. ‘The flower and the bloom’ work was made in Maine and the majority on Monhegan Island though some pictures were made in the area around Rockland where we were staying. Since the work is largely close up I can make pictures that seem like they are in an abundant wilderness in my neighborhood or at a man made wilderness. Of course, shooting in a place that is naturally abundantly beautiful is a treat and gives me inspiration and context for the natural elements in my immediate environment.
The flower and the bloom, no. 7 © Elizabeth Chiles


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