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Meet Elisa Rossi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisa Rossi.

Elisa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been drawing, painting and playing classical piano since I was five, growing up in a small village (Fossoli) in Northern Italy and being the only child. I was lucky enough to have my grandfather oblige my father to get a piano and send me to piano lessons for 15 years. Also, my father happened to have a friend who was an accomplished painter. I would spend time in his studio every weekend and he gave me a great foundation, especially on anatomy and texture.

I always felt fascinated by how figures emerge from different surfaces, not necessarily canvas or paper but any surface. I have been seeing silhouettes and faces on walls, in between bushes, in the sky and so on since childhood and developed a relationship with them, by trying to listen to what their message could be.

I remember being very impressed by my surroundings, in particular the local stermination camp (Durchgang Lager) built during World War II in my village and participating to an art contest for children that required to make a portrait of one of the survived soldiers of the resistance against the Nazis. That experience forged my first understanding of art as a bridge between the visible world and the invisible, the living and the deads, art as a way to transcend physical time and have access into higher consciousness states.

Art was, and still is, my best friend, my teacher, my nurturer, my inner fire. Some traumatic experiences during my childhood and teenage years left me with a severe PTSD, constant emotional swings and stuck on a flight or fight operative mode that undermined my overall health.

I don’t remember having felt safe since I was six. The only exceptional moments of light were the ones during which I could sink deeply inward while studying or making art. Those glimpses of peace during which I was able to absorb my emotions, my pain and boil them until transmutation into creative expression. The fact that art operates as an alchemist and has the capacity of turning black matter into gold is mindblowing and having embraced her it is the most precious gift I could ever ask for.

This concept is mirrored in many of my paintings. It took me a while to understand and accept that art to me, is necessary as breathing oxygen. I was harshly criticized by everyone in my family and in my circles for willing to pursue an art career; artists were labelled as failures or lazy people who could afford to do nothing but creating or mentally unstable individuals. I wasn’t as strong as today in my self-awareness and I let other people convinced me that my passion wasn’t valid, only because traumas distorted my self confidence and my willfulness. It sounds like blasphemy right now to not have honored my passion but I must forgive my self and be grateful for having found my way back home. I didn’t know any better back then and opted for a more ‘serious’ field of university studies in International Relations.

I earned a Master’s degree in International Relations in 2010 and then worked hard on building a career in foreign affairs. I worked in Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels. I developed a strong interest into the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, the European Union foreign policy, humanitarian crises and international law.

I have always found war photography and art made by war prisoners and survivors extremely activating and inspiring.

One’s true calling never vanishes. The soul will hunt you down until you listen to her and embrace her. There’s literally no way out. I was keeping my art practice private and constrained to the after office hours and weekends for years. I would also draw portraits of MEPs and colleagues when nobody saw me. I felt that people would have not taken me seriously as a professional if I shared my parallel art life.

I would go to every single art fair and exhibition, in particular the indie and underground ones, in the different towns where I lived, or just walking in awe around art-rich neighborhood all weekend and feeling fully alive and whole for a moment although that wasn’t enough. It felt like living at 20% of my life force potential to be reduced to be the audience of someone else’s courageous acts of self-expressions rather than letting out what was boiling inside of me. Most of the time I felt about to implode.

In a way, I enjoyed those long years of passive creative learning. Berlin expanded my sense of possibility as an artist and Brussels gave me the chance to sample art traditions from many different parts of the world, all concentrated in a tiny cozy city. I fell in love with African art, especially Ethiopian art, with the Flemish masters, with Magritte and the surrealists and several local artists.

After the loss of my father in 2013 without the chance to say goodbye, I experienced a terrible relapse into darkness. I went back to my home town in Italy, Modena and tried to start from scratch. The grieving combined to an abusive work work environment and lack of emotional support led me to a suicide attempt in 2015. I survived and oddly it feels like my life started only then.

I was introduced to Jungian analysis and to James Hillman’s books by a therapist. Jungian studies on art and the psyche deeply influenced my artistic expression and my refreshed perception of reality. In particular, Hillman’s book ‘The Soul Code. In Search for Character and Calling’ changed my life. It’s all about that seed inside every human heart, that daimon or genius that chose you, and you only, to deploy a unique destiny. All of the psychosis and diseases are generated by the lack of adherence to that calling.

I found my creative home in Los Angeles and a chance to build a life that reflects my inner world and true passion. I am profoundly grateful for the people who believed in me when I was too shy to show my work. Carrie Eldridge, CEO and Founder of ATO Gallery, was the first one to notice my art and offering me representation. I exhibited some of my works through ATO gallery at Super Fine Art Fair (Los Angeles, Feb 2019) at the Art of Tech, a satellite exhibition part of Art Basel Miami (December 2019).

My creative flow exploded and I have been painting collection over collection in the past two years. My debut solo exhibition was hosted by Wönzimer gallery in Los Angeles in June 2019. I consider Alaïa Pahrizi, Co-founder and Art Director of Wönzimer Gallery my artistic soul brother. How we connected through our paintings before a personal introduction explains the depth of the artistic and human connection that goes beyond words. We found each other during a collective art show at Innerspace LA (March 2019) and grew together since then. (I am part of a group exhibition at Wonzimer currently open to view till March 5th).

Having people like them in my life is a privilege because sometimes life as an artist gets very challenging and unsettling. I want to repeat how grateful I am for having finally found my voice through art and the courage to share it with people. Making art is the ultimate equalizer, the magic wand for a fresh start, my daily prayer and act of reverence towards Life and Creation.

Some wounds can’t be linearly repaired and compensated for. Art is the unlinear redemption dispenser and miracle maker, the ultimate deus ex machina. All stories from one’s past are washed out and more space is created to allow consciousness to flow through you, having the privilege to host a tiny portion of the infinite cosmic playground.

Has it been a smooth road?
Extremely bumpy rollercoaster. First, the most dangerous challenge for an artist is to protect that innocence and awe that are the baptism of an artist during childhood. There is no art more moving and truthful than the one made by kids. Also, the environment you grow up in can be an obstacle. Being constantly criticized, told you’ll have a hell of a life by doing what you are passionate about is a bit harsh. Then if you have the stamina and the luck to make it to art school, you have to deal with so much criticism that it can kill the bud before it blossoms.

I remember putting all of my heart in art projects. Once I painted a wolf, using an encyclopedia picture as a reference. When I delivered the homework, the teacher laughed at me and said I didn’t do it, some adults did it for me. I got quite shocked by that experience and interiorized a diffidence towards authoritive voices.

More recent challenges that I overcome have been the constant emerging of flashbacks from the past and rejections. I am getting stronger in my foundation every day though and learning how to unapologetically follow my inner voice to paint only what moves me and in the way that makes me connect with it at a deep level, fluctuating between figuration and abstraction without restraining my expression to any label.

My father used to tell me a story. There are hundreds of frogs trying to climb a glass wall. They all keep on trying and slip down to the bottom. There’s one that makes it to the top and to the other side. What special quality did that frog have? She was deaf.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
I would say that what characterizes my artistic process is the unconditional loyalty towards the truth and my approach as a seeker. I have a dynamic relationship with the medium. While starting from a vision of the composition and a study of it, I let the process guide me and surprise me.

I often capture emotional states with my artworks and express them through anthropomorphization. I love figurative and representational art as much as I love abstraction. I am learning to welcome whatever comes as an inspiration and approach the paitning/drawing process as a fluid discovery more than a pre-determined set of goals.

My early paintings (part of a collection called Organized Chaos) were more personal and a catharsis of my emotions and memories. The second collection is called ‘People’ and included portraits of people who inspire me and I have a connection with. The third collection, ‘A Third Way, Alchemy’ started with the painting titled ‘Magma’ and it is a synthesis of different themes that spiral from the central idea of one’s capacity to be reborn from his/her own ashes.

I have a special relationship with music when I paint and I would say that some paintings were shaped by music.

I have been focusing in the past year on the dynamic relationship between sounds and visuals. I composed three classical piano songs that are inseparable from three respective paitnings. It’s a very interesting phenomenon to experience how sounds influence visuals that then influence back sounds. I like the idea of giving each painting a musical companionship.

I love capturing musicians while playing music.

Other favorite subjects are females who radiate strength and prosperity, distorsion of body parts, botanical elements.

I treat each painting as a unique, sacred opportunity to celebrate life. It is my way to share a message of hope and a glimpse into the infinite creative possibilities available to us every single moment.

Even though I don’t identify with my past and with any artistic expression label, being a survivor affects my aesthetics and my creative process. First of all, it makes art necessary to my own existence and to get better. Secondly, making art is the safest way of revisiting past memories trapped in the subconscious and unconscious mind without letting them overwhelm me or shrink my capacity of thriving. The subliminal creative process strengthens my mindfulness and is empowering in the measure that I can create out of something that would be destructive if not used as matter at service of creation or reductive if I had to passively talk about it.

Creativity can make you feel whole and safe when you lost the capacity of feeling that way due to traumas.

My life experiences have influenced my interest into research through art bodily sensations, what the body is trying to communicate and what is that is keeping score of. Theme of gender exploration, longing states and very small details with specific meaning are also recurrent.

I spend many hours drawing which is a faster translation of energy into form than painting.

Drawing is like that friend that loves you and tells you always the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. I used to perceive a separation between my drawing and painting style. Not I see their complementarity and the importance of growing them in parallel as expressive channels.

The common denominator that I have found through my audience is that my art is vibrant and moving. Multiple people said that were able to see something that they needed to see.

I aspire to deliver a multi-sensorial experience through my paintings and let the viewer free to see through it.

I think that art has the power to make people ‘feel’ and connect inwardly in a deeper, more authentic way and therefore to connect with others with the same authenticity. Self-Awareness and connection are such a luxury in modern society and, in some cases, can save lives.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I’m so grateful to be here in Los Angeles! I can’t stop repeating it If you have talent and a strong message to share, along with the stamina to work very hard, here your people will hear you sooner or later.

It’s also very easy to get isolated if you are an outsider. Yet the energy and the sense of endless possibilities that a creative can breathe in Los Angeles are undeniable. I have an ‘odi et amo’ relationship with this city and I see Los Angeles has a giant coagulation of opposite realities, a fast-paced heart beating town that has the responsibility of influencing the whole world. Coexistence of extremes and diverse cultural and artistic layers definetely inform my research as a creative and are reflected through my art. Furthermore Los Angeles offer a privileged view on cultural and creative trends. I love seeing how different art practices are getting closer and melting with each other here. Art, fashion, music, movement, technology, urban planning they seem all connected by an inclusive thread.

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 2139521004
  • Email: ellablisssart@gmail.com
  • Instagram: ella_blisss

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