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Artist of the Week — Elizabeth Ross

October 12, 2009 by · 7 comments

Mariana Velichkova’s interview with the artist Elizabeth Ross

Nomad in Venezia

Please tell us about your first steps into art.

I was a solitary child, who liked to “create” from nowhere things that obviously already existed. I loved the mystery that creation involved. After all those early years I never thought about art or me as an artist. My family was not close to cultural life and the natural path was a social career. In fact I tried in the Communication field. Some years later I moved to another city and found myself in Arts School.


We want them


There I learned how to knead clay, print on stone, the first steps of photography, but the times asked for a different path and I became a drop-out and went to live in the forest. However, the seeds were planted. I was only a little time at art school, but I started to research by myself and have been a self taught artist since then, focusing on clay for years and then opened up to other disciplines.

Death is a lie


But with the first clay sculptures I found out I was not a potter and I had to admit the artistry in my life, and that that was not only the joy of creating but also the administration stuff: you make it and then you must take it to the outside world: make it public. Then I consciously accepted I was an artist. I started showing my work in my own gallery and then had the first solo show in 1990.

Feeding the fairies

Snake tail

What keeps your “head in the clouds” and what keeps you down to earth?

My work, especially with clay, has the particularity of keeping me down to earth as it is to deal with earth itself. The crafting asks for concentration and focus. Same is with video or when you manipulate images. But at the same time, it allows to dream and construct all kind of magical worlds and interstices between worlds that become the work of art. You as an artist live in both dimensions at the same time, sometimes one more privileged than the other. I do.

From the north

For you art is…?

It is a symbolic transcription of the world with all its intangible and tangible realms and this means all human affairs, from dreams and emotions to politics and social issues. It is also a process that connects in subtle ways with the others, a dialogue that provides significance. Another way to say this is that Art, at least for a few moments, helps you to stop the world and connect with visionary insights. And of course, it’s also a medium, a “tool” for development.

Gold to water axion


What is the biggest challenge or obstacle you are facing as an artist?

Well, to financially survive through my art! A difficult adventure especially if you are not part of the mainstream, ruled by the big market and the global art institutions and their curators. Also it is difficult to obtain enough financial resources to accomplish certain projects, but as an artist that has worked mostly in a Third World country, and with a tiny market, I got used to working with what’s available and expand the media I worked with.


These two facts have brought me to understand that we artists must break the structures forced into Art and artists that somehow separates them from the common people. That is why I organized Identidades, an encounter of independent artists in public spaces and some other art events that involved artists directly with communities.

Ley lines

Straight line installation

And also, I had to look for alternative ways of earning money, producing projects and holding workshops always related to Art. I created an organization, 5célula arte y comunidad, to channel these projects.


Mainstream now is mostly interested in the high tech Arts. That is also a challenge. I use technologies but I’m not interested in this cyborg culture, and so they set aside proposals that go in a démodé fashion. Art is not fashion!

Made in Mexico


What gives you the greatest joy and satisfaction in the creative process?

The process itself is greatly enjoyable, even if hard sometimes. From the physicality of clay work, the design of a new project, the edition of video, to the real-time ritual axion where you again stop the world and participate the audience with an even magical narrative which lies in the threshold you open for a few moments.

Matria axion

As when a child, I love the mysterious alchemy of the creative process that produces outcomes expected and unexpected and that contains your breath, the spirit of the zeitgeist that makes it Art.
And of course it’s a great satisfaction to perceive the acceptation /understanding/empathy of the people that becomes the audience and participates of it.


The tale

What is the main source of your inspiration and the main source of your …desperation?

I consider myself an artist for life. Life and what it should be for everybody is what matters to me. A life nurtured by memory, dreams, mythologies, identity, but also struggles, resistance, consciousness. Women are also central to my work, as I talk from what I know. It is, then, a feminist work, a main issue that brings to attention problems and subtle or evident characteristics of the feminine as “the other”.

Notlallo clay

It also is a culture specific Art, nurtured by roots and alternative dimensions of mexicanity, set in the global scene.
And desperation…well could be certain disempowerment feeling about changing some specific things, like violence… I have worked on that.

Our water


What are the most essential life lessons you have learned so far?

Uhhh! What can I say about this…. Maybe that I must be open to the ebb and flow of life, and trust in it. That I must believe in myself and my work, whatever it is, and dedicate myself to it as a way to exist in this world.


So, if I am an artist this is the way I chose to be in this world. It is important also to be eager to learn and teach, all the time. And of course, that the path is what really matters, not destination. It only exists as a guide, a compass, Utopia.

Power stone

Virtual ubiquity

What are the new horizons you are reaching for?

In the artistic realm and as a self taught artist, I want to keep on learning techniques, to perfect my skills and to experiment more in all the mediums I work with. Also l am looking for collectivization. I would love to find a group of artists to work along with. It is important for me in this stage of life to find pairs and different approaches to Art and life, to enrich my own.


In the practical, I am about to spread my wings to fly farther. As I am a Spanish citizen, I will live in Europe for some time now and that means for me the chance to expand my possibilities as an artist. I’ve been doing artworks there for some years and I like the way they have been received. It is particularly challenging now at this specific time due to the current crisis, but I hope it will work and I will be able to create my life there.

Thank you very much for kindly answering my questions!

Sea dance

We want them alive


Memory, subtle and slippery, is the link between biology, or the body we dwell, and history, the path that allows being in the present.
To know deep roots feed her, roots that nurture from very different deep waters, only pulls her strongly to dive on them.

Elizabeth Ross has Spanish, Celtic and Nahuatl Indian blood, as far she can trace. She holds on myth and identities to try to understand the knot she feels she is.
A Celtic knot, as she longs for a drop spilled from the cauldron of Ceridwen.
A Spanish knot, as she sees her hands dancing as dove wings under flamenco spells.
And of course, she is a Mexican knot, with that mix of Indian blood that drives her into mysterious ways.

So then, Memory, Identity, Mystery are her quests.

Don Juan said we need the intent to reveal mystery, although we know mystery cannot be revealed. That is her art way. And as a woman, she naturally started with the most primal, abundant, concrete material a woman can access, beside flesh, this is earth itself, in the form of clay.

From the first sculptures, resembling stones, or steles, her work naturally developed into installation. She found out she tells stories, mythological stories, and installation was the best way to tell them.

She has shown her work like this since 1990, and when she moved to Morelia, the city she lived for 17 years and is about to abandon, a Profound City, a 135 unique sculptures installation, marked a progressive national career, as it traveled for 3 years all around the country and even in El Paso, the border with that monster called USA.

Dealing especially with Mexican identity drove to work on Notlallo, which in Nahuatl language means both My body and My earth.
She worked with the ancient Mexican genesis that calls us to be made out from maize, corn and from clay. They are gente de maiz, maiz people, and this is more a political statement than a mythological remembrance, in this transgenetic times.

She thinks her work has a natural development as she finds out elements and things to work with. She did not attend Art School and she has always been self taught. Sculpture as well as installation, literature as well as journalism, and the also naturally evolved performances, which she rather call Ritual Axions, soon broke the boundaries of clay as her work became more centered.

Her languages broaden, as literature and performance were stronger. Photography came digitally as she became a hard traveler. And it brought the sound and the video. She calls herself a multidisciplinary artist with a consciousness. Maybe because her multiple roots or the multiple myths that become one. Or maybe because the knot she is, calls for it.

And as an important part of her work there is this network called Identidades, the Independent Artists in Public Spaces International Encounter. Exchange, residency, public art. Those are some of the issues involved, but the main one is to broaden the Art and Artists land into people’s minds.

Call her an artist, a witch, a zapatista. Call her stubborn, intense and even lovely.
She just knows she cannot stop.

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