Elizabeth Zvonar

(above) Elizabeth Zvonar, Visionary Feminist, after Jill Soloway and bell hooks, 2017, Digital print of hand-cut collage, 19 x 25 inches/ 48.25 x 63.5 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.

 

(right) Elizabeth Zvonar, Storyteller, 2018, Digital print of hand-cut collage, 23 x 34 inches/ 58.5 x 68.5 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.

(above/left) Elizabeth Zvonar, Root Chakra, 2014, Digital print of hand-cut collage, 16 x20inches/ 40.5 x 51 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.

(above/right) Elizabeth Zvonar, Metaphysical, 2014, Digital print of hand-cut collage, 20 x 24 inches/ 51 x 61 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.

(right) Elizabeth Zvonar, The Universe Is Mental, 2014, Digital print of hand-cut collage, 16x 24inches / 40.5 x51 cm.
Courtesy of the Artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.

Collage plays an important role in Elizabeth Zvonar’s artistic practice. Appropriating imagery from the public realm, such as magazines and science textbooks, Zvonar decontextualizes these found images and reframes them by creating new associations that often subvert their original intentions. In the works collected here, photographs of deep space are layered with human, animal, and machine-like elements, creating images that recall science fiction characters and environments.

 

With their instant connotations of vastness and unknowability, images of deep space offer an intriguing representation of what philosopher Rosi Braidotti calls the “external dimension, which in fact enfolds itself within the subject as an internalised score of cosmic vibrations.” [1] The double entendre in the title of one of Zvonar’s works, The Universe Is Mental (2014), humorously alludes to the experience of this external dimension: unfathomably complex and yet understood by brains made from the same material as the rest of it, the universe is at once intimate and strange. The multi-eyed form in The Universe Is Mental provides a model of subjectivity that is multidimensional, partial, split, heterogeneous, and incomplete.

Visionary Feminist, after Jill Soloway and bell hooks (2018) projects this idea into the future. A female model’s face is replaced by a glittering red jewel, her eyes

screened by high-fashion wraparound sunglasses. The almond-shaped gemstone connotes both an eye and a vulva and takes the idea of “feminist vision” to an almost comical level. As a combination of human form and gemstone-visor technology, the piece also spoofs the way female-gendered cyborgs are often represented in mainstream science fiction as sleek, sexualized “pleasure models.” [2]

 

Yet Zvonar’s portrait of a visionary feminist also exudes power. She is visionary not in an optical sense, but rather in the sense of being ahead of one’s time: desiring and bringing into being a reality that doesn’t fully exist yet. As art historian Jennifer González notes, “When the current ontological model of human being does not fit a new paradigm, a hybrid model of existence is required to encompass a new, complex and contradictory lived experience.” [3]

The title of Visionary Feminist cites two such visionary thinkers, people who, for Zvonar, have made space for new futures through the speculative acts of writing and making art. Storyteller (2018) continues this idea, showing a human-animal hybrid conducting a ritual with teaspoons. The owl, with its ability to perceive within the darkness, has long been a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Is this an oracle scrying the future, or simply an avian friend making a convivial brew over which to share a tale?

My name is Elizabeth Zvonar. I grew up in Thunder Bay in the middle of Ontario in Northwestern Ontario. I came out to Vancouver as a teenager and I've been here, more or less, ever since. My artistic practice incorporates both collage and sculpture. I'm interested in the metaphysical and how it may, or may not, manifest itself in this this present reality, and I explore those ideas through some of the work that I do. I'm also very interested in art history, and the trajectory that Western art history in particular has laid out for us, and interjecting a different perspective—a feminist perspective—into that history. Currently, I've been working on a new body of collage work. I've been using a magazine, Scientific American from the 70s, and trying to use the dated text and reinvigorate it into something that's more of a contemporary thinking.

The works in Shimmering Horizons include five works. Three of them were done in 2014 and they come from the same series. They're playing around with this idea of the metaphysical and the mystery of what that is, what that potentially could be.

So, I was born in 1972. I've thought a lot about why I'm interested in imagery from the 70s. And I think it has to do with nostalgia and just having been born in that period. There's something to the sun-kissed imagery that comes from that moment that I relate to, probably, childhood or something. I'm fascinated by outer space. When I was a kid, I was really interested in spaceships going into outer space: NASA, putting the Voyager, for example, up into outer space and sending a time capsule on that. Do you know about that, the time capsules that are that were shot up into outer space in 1977? There was a group of scientists—Carl Sagan headed the group—and they put together a time capsule of planet Earth in a four year period that was meant to capture all the aspects they could imagine of what happens here on Earth, and the diversity of what is here on Earth, so that, potentially, somebody might come across it, some being might come across it at some point. That's one of my starting points for being interested in outer space. And then finding imagery every once in a while, some good pictures from the Hubble [Space] Telescope, that kind of thing. I find them beautiful and very odd and fascinating all at once. So, I like to use them in my work as well. I think they sort of summarize the mystery of what's out there.

I rely often on chance to make the things that I'm making and the choices I make are advanced or limited by what I come into in terms of magazine imagery for example, or books that I'm looking at. Collage is kind of like a game in a lot of ways because you don't necessarily understand what the end image will be, or all of the choices that you have until you go through everything. So, it's kind of like a game of memory or chance but it's never boring; there's always opportunity for thinking through how things compare together. For example, I spend a lot of time looking at things and trying to figure out what those relationships are. I'm most interested in popular culture imagery and things that are very pervasive in pop culture, and then taking it and playing around with it. That's where that familiarity comes in, where we're inundated with so much imagery out there that we become numb to it. So, to cherry pick things and then make something with it, and then blow it up. Enlarging is a big part of how you can bring the obscure into a more focused image.

Titles are really important for my process for making art. I feel like it does give it that conceptual part of the work and I feel like an image or sculpture isn’t actually complete until it's titled. It creates the situation (though, not everybody's looking for titles when they're in a gallery setting). I feel like, if anything, it can offer a little bit more information and an entryway into my thinking. Humor is really important, and playing around. And puns! They’re very important and they're most notable in the title, generally.

So, the exhibition in 2014 that three of the works come from for Shimmering Horizons came from this exhibition: I really do believe the best thing a person can do with themselves is to expand their mind. It’s a truism and I do believe that. But what is the content though? Uh… thinking about being human here today. Like, being alive is really weird! It's a very strange state, when you think about it for a little while. And then, if you do if you succeed in expanding, not getting too caught up in the expansion of how big and beautiful and problematic and everything being alive is. And studying it as somebody, just some individual who happens to be here, so take myself for example. Yeah, it's a weird state that we're in. There's a lot of things that don't make logical sense about how we're here and how it is we're here. Then you build upon that all the stuff that we make to use and guide us through making a life make sense, which includes things like using popular culture, following it, and social media and all that stuff. All of it is totally meaningless! And capital and money and economics and all of those things. It’s all just made up stuff, but we follow it so that we have a structure. And then there's hierarchies that come as a result and it's pretty imbalanced. So yeah, none of it really makes sense!