Elayne Safir, artist
Artist Elayne Safir’s cover illustration graces the front of the recently published Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2013); (a reading will take place in Lincoln May 7(7pm, South Mill, 48th & Prescott, details here). The artist shares with LFF about drawing since she was a kid, her favorite (relatively unknown) artists, how feminism plays a role in her work, her sculpture installation in the upcoming Figment Festival in NY and more…
Background/where are you from? This is a simple question with a complicated answer…I was born in Ukraine and spent my early childhood there. My family immigrated to Brooklyn in 1993, which is where I went to school and grew up. I moved to Toronto, Canada in 2001, where I studied art and watched America from its window to the north. I’m now back living and working in New York.
“Synth Waves” by Elayne Safir
How’d you get into art? I’ve been drawing since I was a kid - illustrating books before I knew what illustration was. I’d read a book and draw endless character sketches or images depicting particularly exciting plot points. I got into comic books and graphic novels in high school, and that’s when I realized that picture books weren’t just for kids - that it was possible to create art illustrating adult themes and complex social and philosophical concepts.
Tell me about your work/inspirations. My two favorite artists are not terribly well known but they really should be! I’m a huge fan of Giorgio de Chirico - his student Salvador Dali is much more famous, but if you look at their work side by side, it’s easy to see how much Dali was influenced by his teacher’s work. It’s beautiful, haunting, and an amazing example of “magic realism” - a literary genre which I use as a description of my own work, which also aptly fits de Chirico’s art catalog. I also hugely admire the work of Malcolm Liepke, a modern american painter, and his oil paintings of daily life - couples at dark bars, women getting dressed, intimate moments that feel like painted photographs. I aspire to convey the same intimacy in the way I portray people in my own work.
Does feminism play a role in your work? Women are my go to subject matter - I’ve been drawing female faces and shapes since early childhood. It’s a meditative and somewhat obsessive process - expressing something intangible yet deeply important through an inked eyelid, a pencil-shaded curve of the lower lip, a furred eyebrow, ten intertwined fingers. I wonder about feminism, the power of femininity, the place of ancient gender roles and the future of the sexes as I draw, and let those thoughts and questions pour into and through the ink. It’s a communication of sorts, from a woman and to other women, and from a human to other humans, one without words or answers - just feelings and fears and hopes.
“Absent Without Leave” by Elayne Safir
Tell me about making the cover of WWR and why that is important to you. I have so much deep respect for Laura Madeline Wiseman and the amazing poets who participated in this project. Resistance against gender violence is such an important cause - one with so much relevance to the time we live in - one which knows no geographical boundaries. I received some of the poems as a preview and an inspiration, and read the words over and over again, making them the music in my head, and a call to arms as I worked on the artwork. I am incredibly proud to have contributed to this book and am really looking forward to participating in the WWR New York event in May: https://www.facebook.com/events/346921008758905/
Any other projects you’re working on /excited about you want to share? Yes! I am participating in the Figment festival in New York in June. It’s a wonderful annual celebration of art and creativity, and it’s my fourth year participating with a sculptural installation - a giant flying Firebird, a mythical creature from Eastern European folklore, evoking promises of magic and inspiring the chasing of dreams.
Check out Elayne’s cover illustration and Women Write Resistance here.
Keep up with Elayne and see more of her artwork at emptyminute.com.