Elise Schweitzer: Painting the Dramatic Moment

(detail) Elise Schweitzer, Garden Party, oil on linen, 54 x 144 inches (courtesy
(detail) Elise Schweitzer, Garden Party, oil on linen, 54 x 144 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Elana Hagler interviews painter Elise Schweitzer about her work.

Hagler introduces the interview by writing that Schweitzer "has a wonderful mix of formal invention and playful, curious narrative in her work. Many painters I’ve seen tend to fall into the formalist camp or the narrative camp, and one of the things that I very much appreciate about Elise’s work is that she plays within both worlds and does so with confidence and a sense of visual adventure. She is deeply committed to the color relationships and shape life of a painting as well as to that art of storytelling that links her work to those poets of paintings past."

Asked about narrative Schweitzer comments: "The narratives in my paintings are a scaffolding; they create a structure of formal problems to be solved. If a herd of centaurs charge in from the right, what kind of slingshot movement is going to carry you across the canvas? The most important part of that painting became the white plastic lawn chair falling over in the middle right. It’s a turnstile, catching the tablecloth, about to be kicked away by the centaur, spinning as woman in pink stumbles away. That’s how the narrative ideas appear at first to me, but I’ve always discovered in retrospect or as I’m working on them that there is an autobiographical component to the imagery as well. As much as the centaur painting is an excuse to paint a battle scene, it was also a reflection of my mental state at the time."