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architectural art and engraving
Piranesi

Elizabeth Ockwell (Contemporary)

Elizabeth Ockwell has spent thirty years teaching figure drawing and anatomy at Chicago's School of the Art Institute. One of her favorite techniques is to allow her students a moment to study the model to be sketched before turning out the lights for the remainder of the class. In the darkness, the young artists must feel the lines used to communicate the image and sense the scale of the drawing. Unable to fall back on their well rehearsed virtuosity, her advanced students learn a more intuitive way to draw that displays more emotional feeling in the final work of art.

For her own muse, however, Elizabeth has gravitated toward the built environment. The human figure rarely appears in her watercolors and etchings of Paris, Rome, Venice and Vienna but there is always a palpable human presence. Having taught figure drawing as an expression of character through the subject's body language, Ockwell finds a city to have an identifiable character just as distinctly unique.

She walks through famous rooms and town squares until her senses allow her to go no further for the perfect view. Her inner voice then tells her: "This is the place where energy is focussed, with a sense of historical focus. Where things have occurred and there is a sense of possibility and emotional resonance."

Line comes first, a freehand, almost automatic expression of the feeling of a place. Her emotions are encouraged to find the shape of this living object through its roofline and windows and carvings. All precisely created by men to evoke power, comfort and, more often than not in European cities, extravagance.

Through its most important buildings, each culture presents a face to the rest of the world. How a city grows over time tells us what happened in that place leading up to that moment. In her etchings, energy seems to erupt in the lacy walls and loggias of "Ca d'Oro," a Gothic Venetian palace on the Grand Canal. The grand staircase of the Upper Belvedere in Vienna has morphed with its cherubs and lanterns, becoming a twisting, scaled beast with eyes and limbs. Her plate size can be enormous, allowing her to approximate the scale and gestural sweep of her drawings and watercolors.

Paris is a frequent subject of her etchings and drawings. Figurative carvings, roofline ironwork and fountains animate the buildings without a single human figure to distract from the essence of place. The old Paris Opera House has become a favorite muse. For an exhibition of her work done there, she recently recalled: "The interior of the Palais Garnier is a site so extravagant, so innocently confident in its excesses, so brutally luxurious that I feel a great sense of freedom when drawing there. It is a place which gives me permission to exaggerate, invent, and obsess. The complicated floral ornamentation, multitudes of marble and bronze figures, and the soft geometry of the arches and staircases allow me to draw in the way which comes most easily to me: freely following contours and edges, so that the drawing comes together almost by chance, without measuring or calculation."

"Place" is very much a living thing for Elizabeth Ockwell and Paris is itself a character that breathes through its very human construction.

Born in Bozeman, Montana, Elizabeth received her B.A. at the University of Washington in 1967. She then studied painting in Germany at the Kolner Werkschulen in Cologne and Hochschule fr Bildende Knst in Hamburg. After receiving her M.F.A. in painting at Northwestern University in 1974, she began teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago the following year.

Numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums have featured her etchings, drawings and watercolors since 1967. Her work has become a staple for ArchiTech Gallery, Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, Evanston's Art Center and Noyes Cultural Art Center, where she maintains a printmaking studio.

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St. Ivo Rome, by Ockwell

St. Ivo, Rome
pen and ink
pencil and watercolor
2004
18 1/2 x 26 inches

Michigan Avenue Bridge by Ockwell
Michigan Avenue Bridge
pen and ink
pencil and watercolor
Oct. 2003
18 1/2 x 26 inches

St. Ivo Rome, by Ockwell
Paris Opera Staircase
Etching with aquatint, pen and ink Hand colored with watercolor
1999
18 1/2 x 12 inches

Chicago River, by Ockwell
Chicago River, 333
Etching with aquatint, pen and ink Hand colored with watercolor
1990
18 1/2 x 26 inches

Chicago River at Dawn, by Ockwell
Chicago River , Dawn
Etching with aquatint, pen and ink Hand colored with watercolor
1992
18 1/2 x 26 inches

Belvedere Palace Stair, by Ockwell
Belvedere Palace Stair, Vienna
Etching with aquatint, pen and ink Hand colored with watercolor
1999
18 1/2 x 26 inches

Belvedere Palace Stair, by Ockwell
Belvedere Palace Stair, Vienna
Etching with aquatint, pen and ink Hand colored with watercolor
1999
18 1/2 x 26 inches

Link to Elizabeth Ockwell and the Paris Opera House -
January 5 - March 3, 200
 
Link to Rome and the Classical Legacy - September 10 - November 20, 2004  
Link to Big City - A Chicago Album - April 23 - June 19, 2004  

David Jameson
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin suite 200
Chicago, IL 60654
312-475-1290
ArchiTechGallery@earthlink.net

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