Charlotte NC Featured Artist: Elena Calebro
Picking a Local Artists Mind
Today we're spotlighting an artist local to Charlotte, NC. Elena Calebro talks to us about her upcoming gallery show with RAW: Natural Born Artists of the Carolinas. For more details on the event, click (link to come) for a followup article.
We met with Calebro in her studio space at the Rowe Art's hall on the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. She was soft-spoken and accessible, but matter-of-fact. She has tousled auburn hair which fades into a lighter, almost hombre effect. Her makeup is simple, but artistic, and there are tiny flecks of paint on her phone.
Meeting with her a few hours before another gallery she was in that night, we caught her in the perfect mind-set of art and business. With an associates in Fine Arts from Central Piedmont Community College under her belt, she is now working toward her Bachelors in Fine Arts at UNCC.
Once formal introductions were made, my photographer and I sat down to get down to brass tacks about who she was, what she created, and why.
Artistic Inspiration and Goals
MollyMillions (MM): What are your design inspirations:
Elena Calebro (EC): Using eastern religions and mandalas and meditation working them into my work. It's a little bit different than what I usually do, than just throwing stuff on a canvas; paying more attention.
MM: When and how did you find yourself creating art?
EC: I was always [looking at] magazine images and shading. In high school I was doing more art classes, they were enjoyable. People were always telling me that, being an artist, you can't really do anything with that, but I had a professor who really pushed me toward doing something with my art." She later tells me that the teacher was Julie Brown
I enjoy it, its a great way to not be so stressed, and there are so many different things you can do with it for a living, whether you want to teach, or galleries and museums. Everything from art directors; you have art directors for just about every company. Makeup, painters, book illustrators, even teachers who go into hospitals and provide art programs for the kids there.
Art therapy is another one, even in police offices they have criminal investigators who require close attention to detail.
MM: It seems that your teacher really pointed you in the right direction. What are your goals in art these days?
EC: I know for sure I definitely want to start going larger, like murals. Just expand on what I enjoy, more research; I really like taking other subjects like psychology and religion and incorporating that into my work.
[I'd like to] open up an actual art studio; work with younger children and teens. Especially because its getting taken out of schools so much; work with them, show their work much more than your typical art crowd.
Did you ever take art classes or camp as a kid/teen?
The Importance of Art for Teens and Kids
MM: How important do you think visual arts are for teens and kids?
EC: I think it's really important for psychology, a way to express themselves, so many studies show that it helps with other studies as well. A lot of doctors and lawyers are required to take art classes.
We're moving into this society where you have to find new ways of doing stuff. A lot of our jobs are going overseas, what are we going to do with those who don't have jobs?
MM: What about the cost of being an artist?
EC: Well I know some places offer summer camps in East Charlotte, summer camp for underprivileged people: “The Happening”, so anybody can come in and create art. It's that or just getting friends together to try to do something, they have so much stuff online so you can be self taught.
That's a big goal of mine, so kids can come in and learn about different things, we definitely need more of that here.
Unless you're trying to sell something in a gallery, you can just do art on your own, there are a lot of people who will actually buy things that aren't that expensive. It's really just about how technical you are about the material you use.
MM: What are your thoughts on the differences of self-teaching art and learning about it academically?
EC: Personally, I think that being a self-taught artist is amazing, I feel like its good to have the academic structure beforehand because it pushes you, and it gives you more critique, and pushes you into doing more than you would.
I feel like I'm finally starting to get that balance; getting to that point that I'm growing and know what I want to do with my own paintings […] more toward freelance, doing my own work, not just what they expect from me.
MM: Oh, have we opened the jar of worms now?
EC: When I paint I have paint all over me, but I want my space to be organized, but in its own crazy matter. I can find where things are. Kind if brings back that think of being a child. That's my way of bringing back childhood playfulness back into things.
Building the Art Scene for Charlotte NC
MM: When you're inspired by something as antique as mandalas, how do you manage to keep it original?
EC: Really mixing up media, found objects, and incorporating them into my inspiration. For these its really just trying to take these different objects, today's mundane objects and unifying the older world concepts.
In the Rowe halls, we hear sounds of what seems to be LARPing or perhaps a dress rehearsal for some upcoming performance art. I ask if Calebro has anything she would like to add to the interview.
EC: I can say that now I'm actually finding out my voice. I've been doing a lot more research, whether its the eastern religion, Jackson Pollock is one of my favorites; the way he just throws paint on there, a lot of things [I like] are about the process; like taking objects and painting them.
Being an artist in Charlotte, a lot of people are questioning whether we have an art scene. Even when the lightrail was just being built, public art is becoming a big thing.
Here she refers to the CATS LightRail project, which became patrons of artists to create installations of art along the track and downtown.
EC: [Charlotte is] growing, up and coming, more and more studios are being opened. [When it comes to] art, stay in Charlotte, do it here, that's what builds the scene. Try to get the young artists to stay here.
In those scenes (referring to New York and Chicago), they have such expectations already, and here it's about what you want it to turn into. It's really just about looking for it.
MM: So what are your expectations for Charlotte's art scene?
EC: Well for me personally, it's to move away from the structured art exhibits. You have your certain crowd that people want to stick with, all of these collectors that have a lot of money but can be a little stuck up. So it's really just to bring change; more of an idea of being more accepting and [accessible] to the average citizen. [To be] more interactive, I think that would be a lot better, whether you want to add dance or performance art. It makes those events much better, rather than just standing around talking about your art.
For more information on RAW Artists
MM: Tell us about RAW Natural Born Artists.
EC: It was an event I heard about, it's more like fashion artists, local bands, it's really just trying to get that underground culture up and running. Artists get a live interview, chance to go to another festival for free, we keep all of the proceeds.
I ask her about what she considers most fun about creating art in her medium.
EC: The most fun thing is just doing it, I love working with brand new paint, getting it on canvas and just working it, especially when you start working larger.
I'm very into expressionism, I love impressionism too; Automatism, and the process and allowing it to happen. You allow the viewer to see what they want to see from it. I personally don't consider [contemporary art] art.
I've also done a couple of photo shoots in the past, but nothing ever that serious with it. I've done everything from ceramics to sculpture, printmaking.
Perspective of The Artist
The Future of Artists
Perhaps Calebro is right about the direction of the Charlotte art scene, in any case, RAW Natural Born Artists will help. Artists like her and communities like RAW are what every city needs to keep the paint pumping through the veins of the industry.
Stay tuned for more local features on artists, musicians, and an in-depth coverage of the recent Spectrum event by RAW.