We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Camilletti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
At times in my life I have felt the ticking clock of time counting down. When I was newly out of college I would regularly set deadlines for myself. When I was in grad school I felt like the days never stopped and I was living through a cycle of sunrises seen from the window in my studio cubicle. At the end of my grad school experience, when I realized how much I had accomplished time felt like it was moving as it should be. I took note of the days of the week again, and most importantly, for my health, I accepted down time for what it was meant to be, a break from working. So the balance see-saws, depending on where I’m at in my life. I feel that as I’ve gotten older the balance has gotten healthier. I pay attention to an internal monitor that lets me know when I really want to get into a new piece or when I’d rather go on a walk with my dog. I still keep deadlines, because I like knowing what I’m working on, it helps me stay on track of making my way through my list of ideas, but the deadlines don’t feel nearly as fatal as they did when I was 21. I look at balance on a semi-long term. Because if I have the energy and the want to work on something then nothing makes me happier, prouder, more engaged then working on the project. Sometimes I bet it looks like I’m doing this project at the expense of sleep, but I know myself. After, I finish the project, I gestate, I take an empirical break, and that is my way of recovering. I especially love to sit and read a book after I finish a project. To me the balance is knowing what my body needs and how I can economically and efficiently do the work I want to do when I want to do it. That specifically means year after year.Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I once heard a definition for introversion that differed from the accepted interpretation. This source, which I have not been able to locate since, stated that introversion rather than having to do with energy an individual gains or loses based on social situations instead referred to a mentality of either going with or against the crowd. In the case of introversion the individual consciously chose not to follow the crowd, while an extrovert would enthusiastically join in with the popular opinion. I think about this often when I am deciding about the look of my art. I follow a great many accounts of galleries and artists on Instagram and there are most definitely noticeable trends in the “art world”. I think a great many of these trends are positive in so far as they show a willingness for previously silenced voices to be heard and to have the visibility that is required for positive change. The trends that set off my introvert senses usually relate to the techniques, styles or processes being used, when artworks all start to look the same. It is not the content then but the form that I take stock of when I want to set myself as separate from the crowd. I like juxtaposition. I am currently interested in the juxtaposition of crayon drawings, embroidery and weaving. Fiber arts have been making a strong move of late, and I’m glad to see that this once “women’s work” is getting its due. But it sets off my introvert side, and so I have to change how I use the materials. I do that with juxtaposition, and the use of found materials. Inevitably my work doesn’t have a polished look like the paintings and wonderfully contemporary woven tapestries I so admire, but the work looks like something I made, and right now I’m preoccupied with that. The internal battle about wanting to make it in the “art world” and make work I’m proud of exists constantly in my brain. I supplement my lifestyle by working part time jobs that I find fulfilling. Currently I have the privilege of teaching art at a 2 year college. I wonder a lot about what my life might look like if I had a full time job, what if I was a professor, what if I worked in Human Resources, or what if I got a year long residency and my full time job was making. I think about how I balk at the idea of moving to LA or NYC to try my luck for a year and push my art, is it because I’m afraid I won’t get any attention, am I afraid of attention, or is there something unappealing to me about being wholly an artist? Is there a part of me so well trained that I feel like I need a “job” with benefits, and a pension? And the “art world” itself is so problematic, the biggest of which is accessibility, I don’t want to sell my work for thousands of dollars, I want my work to be accessible, because artwork is about humanity and if we can share our humanity then I think the world might be a better place for all people. I also want there to be a level of freedom of exploration in my body of work. I want to be able to change mediums and content, techniques and form at a whim, because of an idea I have. I don’t want to pump out the same thing with different colors because of the expectation of the market. Most of all I want to feel like me making my art, working my part time jobs, taking care of my dog is enough. The presence of the “art world”, and the dialogue of success makes that enough-ness hard to keep at the surface. If no one sees my work am I contributing to the world in a positive way? If no one buys my work aren’t these things I make just taking up space, using up resources that might be better served elsewhere? What am I doing with my life? I want to do something that helps create hope and inspires curiosity, am I going about this the wrong way? The questions go away and return, and I still live my life as best I can each moment. I still go back to making my work, and go on walks with my dog. I think it is healthy to question my practice, because I want to keep growing, and that can sometimes look like reevaluating my practice, the intent of my work, my lifestyle. I want to be a responsible member of my community and so the questioning is my way of staying aware of my surroundings, the climate of our state today and my own actions within the community. Sometimes I let the questions go too far and I am too hard on myself, and I think that’s when it becomes irresponsible. When I’m in that funk I’m really not contributing at all. What I’ve learned then isn’t living between the moments when the questions are too loud or silent, and its not to ignore the questions. I’ve learned that change is the constant. My work changes its appearance regularly, and I am changing too, and the questions have changed with my change. Little by little my awareness has grown and so I feel my place in this world more and more, and I think the questions have changed to accommodate that. I live in a metropolitan area, the divisions of wealth, health and prosperity are stark. I can’t stand on a street corner and debate with strangers, and I am terrible with commas so if I were to write a letter to my local representative, I don’t think my message would come out coherent, but what I can do is pick up a crayon and communicate an idea to an audience. I can change the way the idea looks too in order to reach a wider audience. I can make art that is accessible. That is what I can do, and I know I’m not alone, because someone else can write, and someone else can speak, and someone else can dance, and someone else can sing, and the list goes on, and I feel a part of that. I want to do what I can with what I can do, and because I’m not alone, I am hopeful.Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If this visit happened before COVID time I would have to say the first stop would be Lady Bird Lake. Then a few of the parks like Zilker and Mueller, a few of the trails like Bull creek. Walking around downtown would inevitably happen, and a visit to the Austin Central Library of course. For food there are some great bakeries that are always on my list to get treats from when I have visitors. Quacks in the Hyde park neighborhood, Tous les Jours off North Lamar. For meals there is a wonderful food truck I love to order from, Wasota Vegan Paradise, not even because I’m vegan, but because it is amazing, also Komé, a great sushi stop. I also love the Wildflower Center in south Austin. I’m big into walking activities so most of what I know about the city involves a pedestrian’s perspective.The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to shoutout the love and support of my wild and untamed partner, sam.
instagram photo of me at work in a studio from @serenalmerry