“The feelings that I want to convey … I don’t always have the words to describe,” explains painter Elizabeth Glaessner amidst the large, beautifully painted and somewhat mysterious canvases that make up her solo show at the P.P.O.W. gallery in Lower Manhattan.
Titled “Phantom Tail,” a reference to the artist having been born with a protruding tailbone, the show consists of lusciously painted images that give the viewer a glimpse into the world inside the painter’s head, while leaving one to come to their own conclusions.
“I am trying to convey a sense of openness, strength and freedom in the figures, but there is not any sort of moral code or message to take away,” Glaessner says. “I like to keep them open so that people can bring their own experience into it.” There have been times when others have commented on what they saw in a work in progress, leading Glaessner in a different direction and adding imagery that she originally had not considered.
“I allow the painting to tell me where it’s going to go,” Glaessner muses. “They are never exactly how I think they will be.”
Although the paintings have roots in classic work by painters such as Edvard Munch and Odilon Redon and can claim the influence of “mythology, sculpture and art history,” Glaessner has her own style.
She notes that the images “all come from personal experience — not necessarily illustrations of specific events, but the feelings of those experiences that channel through. Anxiety, fear, stress – things experienced in my childhood.”
In fact, Glaessner began drawing when she was young to deal with some unfortunate trauma experienced in her “chaotic childhood.”
She has come a long way since she sold her first watercolor to a friend for $200. Artistic ambition led her to switch to oil on canvas, which she calls “more of a commitment — by the time you’ve prepared the canvas, you’ve already done a lot of work.”
She works on a number of pieces at once, sometimes leaving one for awhile and then returning to it to reassess. There tends to be an arc that Glaessner experiences, which goes like this: “It starts out great and then hits a point where I question everything. But I always know when it’s finished.”
Wendy Olsoff, one of the founders of P.P.O.W., gave Glaessner her first solo show in 2014. Discussing the work, she mentions the progress that the artist has made since then.
“The content now is much more focused, as is the palette,” notes Olsoff. “However, there is still a lot in common with her early work which always focused on the body and it’s relationship to nature and fluidity between realms real and imagined. She is now more experienced and confident and it really shows. It took a lot of work to get where she is, but she definitely evolved through a lot of experimentation.”
Art collector Amanda Rubin, who has been following Glaessner since that first show, owns several of the artist’s early pieces. Rubin spent much of her time at the opening marveling at the new work.
“I fell in love with her work immediately!” she exclaims. “I love the richness of the colors and the powerful, dreamy images that are mixed with an undercurrent of sexuality. They depict a lush, sensual dream state that is still connected to the earth.”
“I’ve been creating this world as a psychological investigation,” Glaessner explains. “They are not illustrations of specific events. I became interested in creating a parallel world and people will see in it what they want to see. I hope that people will understand the struggle that goes into making the painting and know that it’s ok if you don’t get to where you wanted to go. I’m not interested in creating a perfect painting. It’s more about the journey.”
That journey has led her this show, where every piece is already sold for prices in the five figure range. Still, Glaessner is not going to be sitting around reveling in her success.
“I want to keep making the work better,” she says. “I want to learn new ways to do that.”
“Phantom Tail” runs through March 22 at the P.P.O.W. gallery, 392 Broadway. More info at ppowgallery.com and Glaessner is on Instagram at @eglaessn.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.