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Elizabeth Zvonar | AGO Photography Award Finalist

Elizabeth Zvonar | AGO Photography Award Finalist

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing alumna Elizabeth Zvonar, who is named one of four finalists for the Aimia | AGO Photography Award. We asked Elizabeth to share her thoughts on the nomination, her creative practice and experience with the ECU community.

  1. Congratulations on your nomination for AIMIA | AGO Photography Award! How was the opening of the show in Toronto? Tell us a bit about your creative practice and what winning this prize would mean to you?

Thank you so much! The opening of the show was exciting and glamorous. So many people came out! There was a public panel discussion prior to the opening with 200 people in the audience! The Art Gallery of Ontario is an institution with such a rich and incredible history. It is a real honour to be placed in this exhibition with the caliber of artist that I am nominated alongside.

As for my creative practice, I make new images and objects out of old ones. I do this by choosing images and objects that are collectively familiar within our culture – from advertising or art history, for example and reconfigure them, shifting their message, by making them no longer familiar. Of course I would be happy to win. The money would come in handy and would be used to fund future works.

2. How have your studies at Emily Carr University influenced your work, project and career?

I started out in the early 1990’s in the Studio Art program at Capilano College where I was introduced to the formal techniques of making and to the history of art from a primarily western perspective. After that, I spent a great deal of time traveling, schooling and working my way through parts of Japan, South East Asia and all over Europe and India. Traveling and living on nothing for many years amplified the variety of ways one can live a life and debunked the notion of a singular answer to anything. By the time I got to Emily Carr in 1999, I was an open book. Emily Carr introduced me to theory and critical thinking and conversely to the limits that having a strict rationale can impose on a fertile, experimental and intuitive practice.

3. You have worked on many exciting projects. What project do you feel most proud of?

I am often negotiating new material territories when I begin a new body of work and there are always learning curves and thinking through problems in abstract ways that can be vulnerable. I’m proud of many things I’ve made although one project stands out because it solved a problem I had been preoccupied with. A few years ago I made a piece called The Serpent, The Spectre, The Ghost, The Thing. It began as a pair of stiletto shoes in porcelain, then cast in bronze, then plated in gold. In the finished work, I used the sculpture of the shoes to support a large collage that leans against the wall. I had been looking for a way to show the sculpture of the shoes without the need of a plinth. I had also been experimenting with ways to have the sculpture be in conversation with the collage images I had been making. Unifying the sculpture with the collage shifted my thinking and continues to influence my approach to making art.

4. What tools or skills do you believe have had the biggest impact on your success?

Being open to other people’s opinions and to be honest about my own. The ability to be socially open and engaged. Going out to look at work.

5. What advice would you give to current Emily Carr students and fellow alumni?

Understand what you do well and continually improve upon it. Accept that you can’t plan life and that yours may shift and morph. Be patient. Listen to people and actually hear what they’re saying. Get a thick skin and learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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