Elizabeth P. Fontenot’s is interested in how humans are “Entwined” with their surroundings.
“A lot of my work recently has been exploring our relationship to nature and how we express that in our domestic life — through like fabrics and textiles and home decor, things like that,” she said.
Fontenot’s latest solo exhibition, “Entwined,” will have a virtual opening Oct. 3 at The Art Studio, Inc. A link to the show will be available at artstudio.org, and on The Art Studio’s Facebook and Instagram. Visitors will be able to see the physical exhibition by appointment through Oct. 30.
The Beaumont native paints detailed natural objects canvas — making them into icons — and said she wanted to intersect some new elements in the work.
“I’d been really interested in our romantic idea of nature, how we always make it beautiful — so, it’s two ideas starting to merge together,” she said. “Another reason why I picked ‘Entwined,’ is it’s ingrained in us. We don’t really stop to think about what we’re really looking at. Sometimes we draw the idea of a flower instead of the actual flower.
“It’s still the symbol of the thing. Those are still symbolic in nature. A lot of my recent stuff has just been really sort of contemplative and inward looking.”
After the TPC plant explosion in November 2019 in Port Neches, Fontenot said she wanted to talk about more things that affected more people — to turn her vision outwards.
“I’m trying to bring in ideas and themes that we’re going through recently, like the explosion, the controversy in our current elections, things like that,” she said. “I think that’s where I really want to go with my work in the future.
“I might not make it in this show, but (I want to)) explore how the oil and gas industry impacts our way of living, because I think we all take for granted the safety precautions they take. I think there’s a lot more that goes on that we just don’t really know about, but it’s kind of kept quiet.”
Fontenot said the themes of environmentalism and community are abstracted in her work.
“I remember after the explosion we had that big smoke plume that just grew across the sky,” she said. “So, I’ve been incorporating some of those shapes. Again, they’re a little bit more abstract — and shapes of the spherical tanks. I’ve been using some circles and some of the other tank-type shapes, but they’re not real obvious right now — I didn’t want to get too representational with that because it’s sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of thing. I think a lot of us just get used to it being there and we don’t really notice it, or we choose not to notice it anymore.
“That’s why it’s more important for them to be sort of hidden and mixed in with everything else.”
Fontenot’s work is realistic, and despite the abstracted subtleties that are in the work, she is clearly a representational painter.
“I haven’t really ventured into fully non-objective art, but I like the idea of abstracting what’s in front of me,” she said. “I think pretty much anywhere you start it’s already sort of an abstraction, because it’s got to be filtered through your eyes and your brain and your hands as you’re making it. When I was younger, I really wanted to make (the paintings) more photorealistic. As I started painting a little bit bigger again. I really like the flatter abstract qualities of just the flat paint, because for a long time, it would bother me that things weren’t perfect. And now I’m trying to let go of that idea. And let things be a little bit more, I guess, lively and visually interesting.
“And I think that’s something I’m sort of still learning. It’s like, well, how finished is finished and does it all need to be finished to the same level? I think is a really interesting thing to explore as a painter and an artist.”
Fontenot’s show was originally going to be a pop-up exhibition in TASI’s lobby gallery, but when the COVID-19 pandemic caused an opening in the schedule, Fontenot, who has been a tenant at The Studio for 10 years, was asked to take over the slot in the main gallery.
“The people in the office asked me, since I was already here working, if I would step in and fill that space — and it’s not like I had enough to do,” she said, laughing. “Because why turn down opportunities?”
Aside from working on her show, Fontenot has recently moved to Nacogdoches to pursue an MFA in Studio Art at Stephen F. Austin University. She said “Entwined” will feature finished paintings, prints and sketches, as some as some works in progress.
“I had some ideas that I started — some of it is as finished as it’s gonna get — and then I have a few things that I wanted to make (that) I didn’t have time to finish so, hopefully, I’ll get those done to some stage of completion,” she said. “A lot of it’s more exploratory work, a lot of experimenting in this show.”
Fontenot said she is constantly sketching in preparation for pieces, although she may not have a specific idea in mind.
“I usually do make a lot of sketches, and it kind of depends on what I am looking for,” she said. “A lot of times I’ll start out with an idea and it just kind of sits in a sketchbook as a sketch until I figure out what other elements to include to really flesh it out. Sometimes it’s just stuff that sits on a shelf for a while until I’m like, ‘Oh, I get the idea.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s what it needs.’ Then I can go forward and execute it.”
Fontenot said some of the sketches my make it into the show, as well as her prints
Even though the exhibition will have a virtual opening, Fontentot wants people to know that they can still see it in person during regular Art Studio hours, noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont, Texas. Call 409-838-5393 to make an appointment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit the “Entwined” Facebook event page.
For more on Fontenot’s work, visit her Elizabeth Pearl Fine Art Facebook page.
Story by Andy Coughlan
This story was originally published in the online ISSUE magazine, September 2020