Elizabeth Berdann with her national Scholastic Award-winning work from 1974

A couple of weeks ago, two members of our External Relations team headed over to an art studio in Tribeca to meet with a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winner from the 1970s! Elizabeth Berdann won a Regional Certificate of Merit in 1973 (today’s Gold Key Award) and a National Award (Gold Medal) in 1974 while attending Allen High School in Allentown, PA. She is now a professional fine artist living in SoHo. Elizabeth always knew that she wanted to be an artist and the Scholastic Awards provided her with early encouragement.

After high school, Elizabeth escaped to New York City to study children’s book illustration at Parsons, but found it to be one-dimensional, and decided to transfer to Smith College where she focused on drawing. She taught herself how to paint after college, and continues to teach and challenge herself every day in order to improve her discipline. For Elizabeth, art provides a legacy when it is well-preserved, giving pleasure to the viewer for many years after it’s been created.

Elizabeth specializes in miniature portraits and frequently works with watercolor on ivory. These small portraits require her to pay a great deal of attention to detail and take about 20 hours to complete! One of her most famous pieces, True Love, which hangs elegantly in her art studio, was featured in the Woody Allen film Mighty Aphrodite. The overall heart-shaped wall installation looks very pretty, but upon closer examination it becomes quite disturbing. The installation features oil on copper miniature paintings that display unpleasant images of body parts that are bound, blindfolded, gagged, and handcuffed. There are two points from which the viewer is meant to look at the work – the full image from far away and the individual paintings close up.

Interested in learning more about Elizabeth and her work? Check out her 80-painting installation, The Emotions, or The Physiognomical Structures of Expression… at Columbus Museum‘s Past is Present show, which focuses on contemporary artists who work in traditional genres (Elizabeth will be representing the portrait miniature painting category), from May 5 to July 22. You can view an animated video of the first 47 of those paintings here.  She will also be having a solo show, Elizabeth Berdann: Deep End, at the Shelburne Museum from May 13 to October 28. The show, which takes place in a beautifully-preserved 19th-century lighthouse, will feature works that center around the theme of the mythology of the sea (i.e. tritons, mermaids and other sea creatures performed by singers, dancers, and actors)! Here’s a video of Elizabeth preparing small pieces of ivory that will become the canvas for the works in her show: Elizabeth Berdann Creative Process I.

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