Today we’d like to introduce you to Eli Saragoussi.
Eli, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been creating in some form. My parents have always been incredibly encouraging when it comes to art appreciation, so my brother and I grew up constantly crafting and attending after-school art classes.
My middle and high school years were spent at an arts magnet school in Denver, where my focus was upright bass. Although I spent most of my time growing in the musical world, I was surrounded by amazing visual artists and their work, so when I had moments of rest from school, I would fill my time with visual creative endeavors such as creating my own clothing and self-publishing zines full of my sketches and collages.
After high school I moved to New Orleans, where I worked for Katrina Brees – a prolific artist who builds Mardi Gras floats on adult tricycles, creates elaborate costumes and runs a variety of creative businesses. Through this transformative experience, I began to solidify my personal vision as an artist and started experimenting with colorful plush creations, dynamic costumes, and paper mache sculptures.
I eventually moved back to Denver, where my life was consumed with completing a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Colorado. After graduating, I became a founding member of a DIY space called “Juice Church.” Located within a 100-year-old building that was once a baptist church, the space housed an amazing rotating cast of Denver artists and musicians, and served as a home, art studio and music venue. Needless to say, this space was incredibly inspirational, and the urge to pursue my craft was stronger than ever before.
After almost three years of growing in Juice Church, we were shut down due to the Ghostship fire in Oakland, which caused a devastating blow to DIY spaces across the nation. Feeling lost, my partner and I decided to follow his brother and girlfriend to Athens, GA, where we currently reside.
This past year has completely changed my relationship with art. I finally feel as though I have a solid vision and work in a collection of mediums that resonate with the imagery I want to portray. Additionally, for the first time, I have a studio space that is separate from my home, and this has allowed me to work larger than ever before and experiment with new processes. Besides working on art, I play in a band called Baby Tony and The Teenies with my partner Max, tend to my many houseplants and thoroughly enjoy thrifting.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I work in three different mediums: embroidered felt, hand-inked/digitally colored illustrations and cardboard/masonite cutouts painted with tempera.
I am constantly exploring the idea of apathy and the struggle to connect with others – both throughout my community and within myself. Although on the surface my work is perceived as playful and childlike (especially as individual pieces), as a collection, it creates a melancholy narrative. To create these storylines, I often use symbols – such as a variety of amulets, rabbits, and plants – which help build visual interest, draw the viewer in and then encourage them to develop their own unique relationship with the piece by relating personal experience with the imagery.
The bright colors and mediums are meant to be accessible. I have always felt that art tends to be extremely aloof, and by working with materials such as felt and cardboard, which are often used in grade school art projects, my work can be approached from many different levels.
I am very inspired by outsider artists, such a Wayne White, Howard Finster, Henry Darger, and Peter Schumann. As someone who never went to a traditional art school, I find it incredibly important to separate myself from the academic art world. Although self-reflection and critique are crucial when creating work, I find (at least for myself) that traveling down the rabbit hole of art theory and constantly trying to find meaning in one’s work can be dangerous and take away from the pure act of making interesting and visually stimulating art. I love the freedom of illustrating images that I find amusing and weird. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
How do you think about success, as an artist, and what do quality do you feel is most helpful?
Personally, I feel successful when I create work that I am happy with. The concept of becoming a “successful artist” is so arbitrary, and the idea of supporting myself through art is something that I strive for, but am certainly not counting on. I know that no matter what, I will always be creating art in some form, and the fact that I have the time/ability/space is enough to make me feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit as an artist.
I think the best way to reach your goals as an artist is to always find time to create. An important aspect of this is not becoming too attached to the work you make – mistakes and ugly art are part of the process. The more that you explore, experiment and play within your art practice, the more you will hone your vision and skills.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
To see the most up-to-date images of my work, you can check me out on Instagram (@flimmyflammy), where I try to frequently post photos of in-progress and completed work (and the occasional photo of interesting thrift store finds or my house plants).
My website (www.elisaragoussi.com) is not always up to date, but a good place to see some of the other projects I am involved with.
I will be part of an exhibition called “You Are Here” at Hotel Indigo in Athens, which opens on February 14th. This is a group show involving Chasity Williams, Amanda Burke, Tae Lee and myself.
You can support my work by giving it a look and telling your friends!
- Website: www.elisaragoussi.com
- Phone: 7203319194
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flimmyflammy/