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Elizabeth Keithline

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Interviewed October, 2005
by J Hogue

Elizabeth Keithline

Gregg Anderson
Cristina di Chiera
Erik Gould
Kathleen Griffin
Elizabeth Keithline
Scott Lapham
Rafael Lyons
Julie Manso and Carl Dunn
the Men of Letters
Rag and Bone Bindery
Howie Snieder
Herb Weiss
Cliff Wood
May Yao

The Lost House Project & Ourchitecture

Artist Elizabeth Keithline has been weaving since the age of fourteen. After receiving a Communications degree from Emerson College in 1983, she went on to take art courses at the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island College and the Saunderstown Weaving School.

In 1990, she invented a sculpture technique called “Lost Box”, wherein wire is woven around an object and then burned, leaving only the object’s wire mesh shape behind. This November Elizabeth will be showing two new installations, “The Lost House Project” and “Ourchitecture” at the Newport Art Museum , which examine the modern use of space and architecture.

“The Lost House Project” is a full scale woven wire house constructed using the Lost Box technique. Part ghost, part skeleton, part hologram, the abstract house hangs from a 20' ceiling,  swaying slightly above the floor. Sharply angled lighting creates a “shadow house” on the floor and walls of the gallery.

The second installation, entitled “Ourchitecture”, is a collaborative venture that Keithline undertook through a call for entries  in Sculpture Magazine. Artists and architects were encouraged to receive a handmade wooden house from Keithline which they were then asked to construct, deconstruct or otherwise adorn and return. Houses then selected by juror Sara Agniel were built into a model neighborhood. Lining the dream streets of a Levittown-like suburbia, “Ourchitecture” ruminates on the preservation of an aesthetic of individuality in an increasingly generic landscape.

So why did you decide that the Lost House needed this accompanying neighborhood attached to the show? What were the ideas behind that sort of collaboration?

Both of these installations deal with the modern use of space. The Lost House Project is a rumination on the loss of rural character in America and deals with the past. It explores the idea that all humans have a place to which they can't return, and in that sense, it's about longing as well as loss.

Ourchitecture concentrates on the future and the hope that we can maintain an aesthetic of individuality in an increasingly generic environment. It asks: If the modern landscape is the largest sculpture installation ever produced by mankind, then who is the curator? Who gets to decide what we build and what we live with? Form does follow function. What else we can come up with?

I admired Robert Venturi's objectivity in the book “Learning From Las Vegas”. In my own way, I'm trying to look at the modern environment without prejudice.

How do you feel that this neighborhood reflects your other work, since it is seemingly so different? In other words, it isn't the lost box process, so how do you think it relates to that work, or is it a bit of departure?

I try always to push, push, push. I love sculpting with wire and I still have things to say with the Lost Box technique, but I would never want to be characterized strictly as a wire sculptor.

How do you think the neighborhood would change if it was installed outside of a gallery setting? What would you like to see it do next?

That's a good question. I feel like a lot of the work that was submitted and accepted into the show is eminently embraceable by the general public, so it would be appropriate to show it in a non-gallery setting. If we covered with a bulletproof Lexan box, we could install it in a subway somewhere.

I would love for the show to travel. I think it's past time for a dialogue about the issues that it tries to address.

I like the idea you mentioned earlier about installing the “rejects” for the show outside of the gallery, kind of across the tracks. The fact that there were houses kicked out of the “neighborhood” is such a reflection of the way neighborhoods can grow, how some people get pushed out to the edges. Do you think it is important for the viewers to know there were houses that didn't make the cut?

Absolutely. That's why, as the juror, Sara Agniel's bio is included in the write-up. The idea of ‘the other side of the tracks’ takes the piece into a dialogue about art and rejection, “ghetto-ization”, to use Sara's word. It's a funny idea, but ultimately, I'm not sure it serves the message. Perhaps it's for another time.

“Miss Jessel” by Lucy Handley

The show opens November 12th, (5 to 7 p.m.). It runs through January 6th. Ourchitecture is upstairs in the Studio Gallery and The Lost House Project is on the first floor in the Ilgenfritz Gallery.

Among the 43 participants in “Ourchitecture” are architect Peter Twombly, (“The Not So Big House”), New York illustrator Ross MacDonald, (The NY Times, Time Magazine), sculptor and public planner Barbara Westermann, (Whitney Biennial, 1986), and artist Robert Rizzo, (18 year organizer of Convergence, Providence).

The Newport Art Museum is located at 76 Bellevue Avenue across from Touro Par, Newport, RI.. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 students. Museum members and children under 5: no charge. By donation Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Hours: daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. For more information call (401) 848-8200 or visit


Elizabeth Keithline:

Selected exhibitions include Gallery Agniel in Providence, RI; The Waiting Room Gallery in New Orleans; Spark Gallery in Denver, CO; the Fuller Museum in Brockton, MA; the Newport Art Museum, and currently at Copia in San Francisco and The Society For Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, PA.

K eithline is a semifinalist for the Raphael Prize in Pittsburgh. Her work will be featured in an article in Fiberarts Magazine, in November, 2005.

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