Portrait of Elizabeth Orleans by Caren Levin

We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Orleans and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Elizabeth, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I realized I was an artist when I was in College. I decided to get a BFA (and later an MFA) with a focus in Ceramics. That was the first of many risks. It was never a thought or option once that light bulb went off in my head that I needed to express myself in a visual manner. I did not enjoy making pottery but loved creating sculptures and installations. This was the next risk as potters make utilitarian objects that people are more likely to buy. Being an artist is not like other jobs where working hard always equals compensation for your time. I’ve always taken risks with my work. I push the boundaries and limits of clay and gravity. I have moved to several cities not knowing anyone to follow my art path. Life as an artist is a gamble. During times like this I’m thankful to have my relationship with my work.

Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? 
My work helps bend the mind of the viewer as to what they are looking at or changes their preconceived notion of what ceramics is. If I say that I am a ceramicist people then think I am a potter (which I am not). I create architectural interventions. My work changes spaces whether it’s a small piece or large room. I also take objects out of their context like making ceramic ladders or clay keys which are five feet long. My favorite piece was an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Rosa where I made thousands of elements that covered the walls and ceiling that people could walk through. That opportunity along with a grant was given to me by the director of the Museum who I was introduced to through an art business school I was attending at the time. Art is similar to many creative jobs – It is all who you know, who introduces you or the context in which you are introduced. It is not easy especially as a woman being taken seriously. I have gotten many of my opportunities such as the museum show from other women who believed in me. Even without a show planned I am still making a new body of work I am excited about! People try and tell me I can’t do things all the time but it’s not a choice. Once I have a vision I need to create it, no matter what!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well going anywhere that’s not virtual sounds great now! Normally, since I’m in Venice we tend to be AWOL (always west of Lincoln). If it is nice out we could ride bikes to my art studio to hang out (and hopefully they wouldn’t mind if I work ;). I’m fortunate to have an amazing work space in an old Coca-Cola bottling and distributing warehouse! I would show them the beach, boardwalk, Abbot Kinney and we still have one gallery called the LA Louver which always has intriguing shows. Casa Del Mar has wonderful sunset views of the Santa Monica Pier. I’d hit a couple art openings on a Saturday night and our museums are wonderful so a trip to LACMA or Broad would be fun! Sushi at Sugarfish or happy hour at Hamma is always cool as well! I love live music so I would hit up a speakeasy or stop by the Mint. The various areas in LA are so distinct it’s interesting to see Malibu, Beverly Hills, DTLA and a night out in West Hollywood or Hollywood can be fun if you find the right event to go to! LA is a unique place in that each neighborhood feels like you traveled to a different state… but this big melting pot makes LA what it is!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Not to sound trite but my shoutout has to start with my family. My mom is alway supportive and my father helped me earn a wonderful education. My initial passion for art was recognized as an undergraduate at Tulane taking glass blowing with Gene Koss. I then discovered Ceramics and continued attending many schools, workshops and residencies to learn from many wonderful people. I ended up getting a MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. After that I moved to Venice Beach where I was under a spell of creative energy and was privileged to become friends with an older generation of artists from the Light and Space Movement like Larry Bell. His kindness, wit and captivation for his work was what I needed when moving to a new city.

Website: www.elizabethorleans.com
Instagram: @elizabethorleansart
Linkedin: Elizabeth Orleans
Facebook: Elizabeth Orleans Art
Yelp: Elizabeth Orleans Studio
Other: @ceramicsocial for classes and clay parties

Image Credits
Caren Levin, Alan Shaffer, Ed Chang, Joel Sigerson, Scott McCue, Genevieve Adams