Berman Museum

Elizabeth Burke, Timber Rattlesnake, 2021. Oil on canvas. 10 x 8 inches.
Elizabeth Burke, Timber Rattlesnake, 2021. Oil on canvas. 10 x 8 inches.

Elizabeth Burke

Artist Statement

Since I can remember, I have always been attracted to Impressionism. I was fascinated by how Monet, Van Gogh, and others could create pieces that were so realistic, but yet they were constructed by mark making that had no relation to the shape of the subject. As I grew older, I found this theme again in abstract and contemporary art. Artists were using unrealistic shapes to translate realistic things. It was not until my senior year of college that I began to experiment with translating my subjects into geometric shapes. This was an interesting challenge because my favorite subjects are natural spaces, plants, and animals, but I enjoyed every bit of the process. By reducing landscapes and organisms down to a series of lines, colors, and shapes, I was forced to consider the essence or the intrinsic value of my subjects. What shapes best represent an animal’s head; what lines are crucial to convey texture in a tree trunk; and so on? Through all this pondering, I developed pieces that emphasize my subjects’ natural beauty by breaking down their form into geometric shapes. For me, my subjects’ natural beauty stemmed not so much from their physical characteristics, but their ability to exist and withstand all the struggles inherent in their ecosystems. It amazes me that despite all the trials organisms go through to survive, they still retain their unique and diverse color patterns, body structures, and physical adaptations. As a result, I used geometry to capture their most distinctive characteristics. My work presses viewers to question what they are looking at, even if it’s just for a brief moment. My intent is not only to get people to consciously think about the environment, but to have my work serve as an access point for viewers to experience the reverence I have for the natural world and all of its critters. Albert Schweitzer, an early 20th century theologian, would walk around worms on a rainy day. He knew that nature was full of death, but he also knew that with greater mindfulness, humans could avoid taking more lives than what they needed to survive. He coined this concept “reverence for life,” and I embrace his philosophy every day because it reflects the relationship I have and continue to develop with the environment. We should acknowledge our natural surroundings, which is why I choose to demonstrate this idea through my work.

Follow Elizabeth Burke on Instagram @lizburke805