Artist Spotlight: Elisa Adams

This April, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery looks forward to presenting the work of sculptor Elisa Adams in the duo show, Liminal Drift. In Adams’ hands, the rigid material of stone comes to life and forms fluid, organic shapes that dance with energy.

Adams began working with stone just over a decade ago, discovering the material in the studios of the deCordova and then spending six years sharing a studio with six other women artists. Adams spent those years forming a connection between her fingertips and the stone, challenging its limits and harnessing its strengths. Presently she works at her own studio in Concord, MA, and can coax even the most stubborn stone into smooth leaves that are nearly transparent.

Adams’ physical connection to her material is an important aspect of her work. Though she works with power tools to more readily execute more intricate elements of her pieces, she still sees value in the slow, deliberate process of working stone with simple hand tools, even as she learns new methods.

Contemplative  White Laced Alabaster 19 x 9 x 6 in

White Laced Alabaster
19 x 9 x 6 in

She explains that, “The ability to touch as you create is such an essential part of making a piece. This adds another dimension in the process that I wasn’t able to do when I drew or painted. It makes my mind think in totally new ways.” She treats the stone as though it is alive; she learns its story and how its identity, shape, density, and the path of its veins determine the way she carves. 

Adams draws inspiration from natural elements. Her current body of work is a tapestry of her journey as a sculptor, including elements from both her abstract pieces, nature-influenced works, and figurative sculpture. She takes soft shapes from nature and recreates them in stone, and also incorporates them into her abstract work. She loves Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers, and incorporates that awareness of nature’s sensuality in her sculpture. 

Adams’ figurative work is inspired by the studies on the Italian Rivera, through which she learned the admiration and appreciation of the female form honored in their art. She spent four years studying the shapes of the body, working them with respect and care into stone.

Her process is a long journey. Her piece, Intertwined, is a twisting, winding representation of three lilies, carved in milky alabaster. Intertwined took Adams a year to complete, as she worked the three forms into one another so that they formed a cohesive shape. She continuously turned it as she carved, letting no one part of the piece feel disconnected from the whole, the petal of one interacting with the leaf of another. The piece is carved so delicately and intricately that in places the hard surface is translucent, as though it would fold like a velvety petal between your fingers.

Intertwined  White Alabaster 12 x 5 x 5 in

White Alabaster
12 x 5 x 5 in

The spiraling crevices of a seashell, the curling petals of a calla lily, and the subtle contour where hip meets waist are all forms present in Adams’ sculpture. Walking around each piece, one finds the balance between hard and soft, nature and construction, and the peace experienced by the artist as she brings the stone to life, chip by chip.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016: Puloma Ghosh