In the Studio: Elana Schwartz

form & concept
Aug 12, 2017 5:58PM

Earlier this summer, we visited Elana Schwartz's studio in Albuquerque to learn more about her process. Before diving into her work space, which is in a shed in her backyard, we got an impromptu tour of Elana’s past work throughout her home. Perched by the door was a cluster of small figures that she made just after high school, when she started dreaming up strange and fantastical characters.

In one room, Elana pulled a two-headed stuffed animal off a shelf and showed us how she’d stitched two furry creatures together. Taxidermied animals appeared throughout the house, including a raccoon and several fish. She described the process of mounting a fish, which includes adding fake eyes and applying pigment to the scales.

In one way or another, all of the art Elana showed us connected with her current work at form & concept. The artist used wood, stone, metal, moss, resin, taxidermy elements and other materials to create the menagerie of mythological characters that populates our One-Year Anniversary Exhibition.

Elana Schwartz
Cojor "Spiritual Wealth", 2015
form & concept

It’s no wonder that a magazine called The Wild wanted to interview Elana. Here’s a flashback to their 2013 conversation with her:

Your wood sculptures are really bizarre and beautiful. I’m so curious about your process. How long do you spend on each piece?

It is really hard for me to gauge time when I am in my shop. Sometimes I spend all day in my shop and sometimes I can only be there a few hours in-between other life obligations. A few weeks ago, I arrived at my shop at seven in the morning and the next thing I knew someone came by and invited me to dinner. It turned out it was already 5pm and I didn’t even realize it. When I am in my shop, I get into a certain mode where I forget everything else, even eating and drinking. It probably isn’t that healthy! I probably spend about two to six months on each piece and that could be anywhere from thirty to five hundred hours.

Do the characters in your sculptures correlate to people in your life, or are they more mythical, abstract beings?

My pieces are mythical beings that I come up with in sketches or in my dreams. I get inspiration from Greek and Pagan myths.

Elana Schwartz
Shrine for Awakening, 2015
form & concept

Do you have a preconceived idea of what each work is going to look like, or do you develop one as you carve?

I usually start out with a plan from a sketch but things always change and evolve as I work on them. Even if I try to stick with a plan, my piece usually dictates how it will come out. Wood is very unforgiving so if you make a mistake you have to work with it and make it seem deliberate. When I am completely done with a piece the end result always surprises me, usually in a good way.

Browse all of Elana's work on our Artsy profile.

form & concept