Calling Elise Windsor a “mixed-media artist” feels like somewhat of an oversimplification. Her art trends toward large sized pieces, frequently blurring the boundaries between craft, painting, sculpture and photography, and often reassembling themselves in different variations in different exhibitions. Having studied at both OCADU and Concordia University, her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, New York, and St. Petersburg, Russia. She most recently completed a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and is a member of Tangerine Dream, a Montreal-based art collective.
My studio is also full of objects—it’s either stuff I’ve found or I’ve made, or I’ve found and then did something to it. There’s always some form of intervention to make it look the way that I want it to. In the first few years of my MFA at Concordia University, I did a lot of still lifes of objects being manipulated in ways, or sometimes even super classic flowers in a vase, but everything was on really bright, coloured backgrounds. I have all of these rolls of paper in my studio, and every single one was used in a different photo.
There’s always this kind of romantic performance for the camera. It’s usually just me in this room with objects that I’ve spent hours slowly collecting and curating. Putting them together and seeing what works and going for some kind of colour palette which is loud and bright and big and in your face, which is what I’m going for.
My collective Tangerine Dream is me and two other ladies. We’re a lady collective. at Projet Pangee, in the Belgo. They’re both pretty Franco, so ‘tangerine’ is also the same in English and in French, we just pronounce it differently, obviously. That was a nice meshing point. We knew we wanted it to be fun and also orange.
I made one big photo for a show at Parisian Laundry Gallery with Tangerine Dream. I thought, ‘Okay, can I limit myself to working with just one colour?’ And that colour is ultramarine. Not orange, but still bright.
Ultramarine is super famous because Yves Klein, who was a print artist (who died too young, some say), he made this blue. He worked with scientists to create this form of blue, which is super exciting because right now, scientists accidentally just made the world’s richest blue, so it’s even richer than ultramarine, and true ultramarine, when you see it, it can’t be photographed. It’s just so rich, its so thick and dense, it’s unreal. So to try to take a photo of it, or at least what I think is close enough to it, is my challenge.
I did lots of tests from different Google images of Yves Klein’s work to see how the colour looks in photographs. Then I had to figure out the code on Photoshop. What was the paint dump in Photoshop? I tried seven different ones, and the range went from a grey to actual purple. I just clicked and hoped, and thought, ‘Well let’s see what this one looks like’. I worked with many different codes. My screen looked different than the screen with the printer on it, so I had to change the code to what I thought looked right.
It ended up taking two years. I did the initial work in the middle of my MFA but it wasn’t finished at all, and there were still a lot of things I needed to do with it. It worked out for the time, but to actually spend the correct and proper amount on it—to make it become a finished, actual thing—I needed to do so much more.
In that photo, it’s calling to my own archives—in the photo there are photos of backdrops that I’ve already made. It’s really meta [laughs]. There’s references to the Memphis Movement, which is also very trendy right now, and I’m totally fine with that. I’m obviously inspired by it because that’s what’s happening. Sometimes it kind of bothers me because I see it so much, where I’m like, ‘Oh shit, why did I pick this thing’, or ‘Why am I so fascinated by this thing?’ But other people are also fascinated by it right now too, so I can’t deny myself that.
It’s the simplicity, and the colour, and the kind of shapes. Memphis were trying so hard to go postmodern, they were trying to be avant-garde but super fucking kitsch at the same time. So they’re taking art deco, they’re taking 50’s diner aesthetics—have you seen Saved by the Bell recently? It’s unreal. That is such camp at its Memphis finest. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s so 80’s into the early 90’s in that show. I would always watch reruns on Superstation way back when…that’s just trends. So I’m victim to being inspired by it, and I hope that I’m doing it a little different, I don’t know. I try. I try, so there you go. Artist statement: I try.
—-Elise Windsor, as told to Studio Beat
Words by Mike Bloom/Photos by Stephanie Richer