Elizabeth McAlpin is a contemporary artist working with abstract and realistic imagery to transform her values and the experienced world into visual narratives. Born in NYC, she lives and works in NYC. Her work was recently included in group exhibitions: Bound, Light Art Space, NM (2021) Ink, New Prints, Site Brooklyn Gallery, NY (2020); Pulling Prints, DVAA, NY (2020), and Solar Impressions Exhibition, Southampton Arts Center, NY (2019);
Most of my work on paper mixes abstract with representational imagery. Elements are often repeated across several pieces while preserving the uniqueness of each piece. My media is mixed using intaglio, collage, etchings, drawings, hand applied paint, stencils, collagraphs, metal leaf, found objects, and thread. I also create works on canvas as well as three-dimensional pieces. The subject of most of my work centers on nature and environmental issues. My environmental concerns date back over thirty years with my academic work on environmental rights and work testing water for an environmental lab. I continue this work in my art and personal life.
Plastic fossils is a body of work aimed to communicate the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality around single-use plastic in a linear economy, from cradle to grave; made from fossil fuel and discarded to plastic chards and artifacts. As a society, we are pushed to produce, consume, and discard to fuel an economy, provide jobs, and advance lifestyles. As someone who finds the natural world filled with incredible intelligence and at the same time admires human ingenuity to construct complex systems to support large human populations, I find the two systems are often at odds due to basic differences in principles. My work aims to capture these paradoxical differences. In particular, I am obsessed with the single-use plastic bottles discarded everywhere polluting water, soil, and air. The bottle is symbolic, even iconic, for a modern human system overcoming the ancient natural one, like an invasive species.
I collect single-use plastic bottles, gathered from friends and neighbors, in order to repurpose them into my artwork. Some are stuffed with single use plastic while others are crushed and twisted. They are layered with paper-mache and gesso to form a surface to apply hand printed papers or painted imagery. Some paper-mache plastic bottles are enhanced with technology while others blend imperceptibly into their backgrounds. My fixation extends to works on paper and ceramics as I contemplate the object represented with other materials. The single-use plastic bottle transforms into a toxic object of beauty to be contemplated rather than discarded with indifference. Currently, I am constructing a chess set from these salvaged single-use vessels. The game is not over.
The work aims to awaken us to see beyond our field of vision to how the linear economic system destroys a cyclical natural one, how the role of the individual and the collective behave in this system, and the dangerous paradox presented in the plastic state of mind. Like the twisted and broken Roman statues preserved in museums tell of a past empire, plastic will be preserved in the land, water, and air to tell of yet another empire.