Elizabeth Bisbing


Portrait of a little girl series
Drawings of a little girl series
Mother and Child series
Artist Statement
Previous Work






I paint images of Celia (my three-year-old granddaughter) over and over again in an attempt to solve some mystery of childhood and family mythology. To uncover what it is like to be a little girl and to understand how I fit in the " picture." I see her openness, vulnerability and innocence. But, really, I am projecting onto her image memories of my own girlhood. All of my memories of being as little as Celia must be highly suspect. Who can remember being 2 or 3 years old? These feelings of being a little girl (of what it is like to be a little girl) are just that feelings. And, fleeting ones at that. In a way they are primal fantasies. They come from a pre-verbal phase of life. A time when fantasy, desire, and fear are much freer to mingle with reality to form implicit, non-declarative, or subconscious memories.

I have come to rely on the ubiquitous family photograph the snapshot -- as a rich source for my work. We are so used to looking at these family photographs that they have become a large part of how we think of ourselves, our families. In this way, they reflect the image of families we desire. Painting is not traditionally understood as documentary or as unfailingly truthful. But, not even un-doctored photographs are gospel photographs of family, which are often the record of performances that unconsciously promote the myth of the happy family. My paintings may also be a myth, but not the myth of a happy family.

In talking about photographing her children, Sally Mann once said, "perhaps it is my past I am photographing." In the paintings of my granddaughter in her facial expressions and postures - I recognize myself. Perhaps, it is my childhood - or the myth of my childhood - which I am painting.