Alumnae Spotlight: Elisabeth Belliveau

March 7, 2017 by

Spread from Elisabeth’s artist book, Academy and Estate

In January of 2010, interdisciplinary artist Elisabeth Belliveau traveled from Montreal to print her artist’s book, Academy and Estate. Between potlucks, hikes into Rosendale, and late nights in the studio, she found the “perfectly balanced creative environment” to edition her book.

We recently had a long distance chat (New York to Japan!) with Elisabeth to catch up on old times and new projects.

Elisabeth, in your current practice you work primarily with stop motion animation, sculpture, and 3D printing. How did you begin working with illustration and printed images?

I studied sculpture and textiles in University but I am a self-taught animator and illustrator.  Animation and books became a great way for me to make art during times when I did not have a large studio or when I was moving around a lot. I started drawing and making multiples, like zines and prints, when I was attending residencies and wanted to find a way to give my work to other artists. With multiples, I could send out my work through the mail and keep in touch with artists/friends. Eventually a publisher had collected some of the zines that I had been selling in cafes and indie bookstores and asked if I wanted to publish them as a book, and now I am working on my fifth graphic novel. I am super lucky!

Tree branches, pears, flowers, seashells, and a golf ball are just some of the countless found objects that parade through your animations. How do you decide what makes an appearance in your videos?

I collect things and have a creative writing practice and love to read. Usually at some point, I realize there is a thread between the objects I am surrounding myself with, the writing I am accumulating, and the themes in the books I am reading. When I recognize what that link is, I get inspired to bring it to life through stop-motion animation. Stop-motion animation is a great way to experiment with materials in time and space with motion, and really make connections between images, text, sound while pushing the potential for things to transform in poetic ways. Animation still surprises me—it is pretty magical to bring objects and materials to life.

Can you walk us through this process with your most recent video, Limonade?

I was thinking a lot about my time in Bologna, Italy and living near the two famous leaning towers in the city centre when an earthquake struck. While I was there, I spent a lot of time making watercolour paintings of skulls from the medical school collection and ate some of the most incredible, indulgent food in the world. So themes of vanitas and momento mori were everywhere. I was obsessed with the still life painting of the late Giorgio Morandi, whose studio is still preserved in Bologna, and I was reading Clarice Lispector’s existentialist writing.  The still life genre also became interesting to me. Somehow, with Limonade I was really thinking about death and decay, growth and transformation, working in a very improvisational manner with collected objects: plasticine, fruit, little sculpted Roman-like busts, melting ice cubes, falling paper towers and plasticine skulls, the scenes unfolded, expressing the materials’ potential for motion and the passage of time.

Your books published by Conundrum Press,
the great hopeful someday and don’t get lonely don’t get lost, include discs of your animations. Are these two media also tied together in your practice?

I used to include DVD’s of my animations as inserts in my books. Now that DVD’s are not really practical, I just upload my video animations to Vimeo. The animations and drawings in the books do not share a lot of aesthetic relationships—but they often are concerned with the same themes. I work on animations and books at the same time in my studio so ideas overlap. It feels like working in 2D or 3D use different parts of my brain. Animation and book making are long-term and slow practices, so it is nice to go between both.

Along with don’t get lonely don’t get lost, the last page of Academy and Estate reads, “21 drawings about trying not get lost when the map-way home goes everywhere but…” What exactly are your thoughts on getting lost?

If you noticed a theme of getting lost, it might be because travel inspires a lot of my work. I learn a lot when I get lost and I am always trying to find travel opportunities. Being an artist has led me to some amazing places through exhibitions, residencies, and teaching opportunities!

With studio intern Katie Ford

Speaking of residencies, it’s been seven years since you joined the WSW community! What was your first impression?

I remember the warmth of everyone working there, the incredibly generous, professional and supportive spirit that was present from the moment I arrived. Chris Petrone, Ann, and Tatana were so kind—and I worked with two wonderful, hardworking, and talented interns:  Katie Ford and Ashley Ivonne Limes. I was actually overwhelmed by the level of knowledge everyone had about bookbinding and printmaking, and was so touched by how eager they all were to share their expertise.

Have handmade books or screen-printing made their way back into your work?

I was invited to come back to WSW to teach a summer class in printmaking and that was such a privilege. Afterwards I started teaching full-time in Canada and was able to teach basic bookbinding as a part of my courses. I am working on a new graphic novel now—which I won’t be printing or binding myself—but I have a great respect now for handmade books and hope to make another artist book edition someday.

Binding Academy and Estate

Until then, what projects do you have in progress?

Right now, I am in Japan starting a new stop-motion animation and finishing the new graphic novel that I started two years ago at a residency in Brussels funded by the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec. I am staying at Tokyo WonderSite Residency for three months and I am really excited to explore this incredible city. My new stop-motion animation will be inspired by still life traditions in Japan and Ikebana. I also hope to check out the 3D printing FabLabs in Tokyo to create some 3D prints of some of the objects that I animate.

Finally, we always ask our alumnae: do you have any advice for emerging women artists?

Take care of each other and work hard at forging good—real friendships with women who are older and younger. Cultivate confidence +

Elisabeth Belliveau is a Montreal-based artist and Artist’s Book Residency Grant alumnae. She holds a BFA from Alberta College of Art and Design and her MFA from Concordia University, where she is now an Assistant Professor. Be sure check out her animations and blog!