“I am appalled by what’s happening and someone needs to bring some thoughtful art to the scene,” says Elena Siff, her voice filled with anger and despair as she talks about some of the worst environmental disasters like BP’s oil spill and Hungary’s toxic sludge disaster that have occurred in recent months. “Our world is being destroyed,” she states, as her eyes wander around the project room of 18th street Arts Center, surrounded by political art posters depicting environmental tragedies, anti-war slogans, peace signs among other artifacts.
“A lot of people gravitate towards these posters,” she says talking about her passion for studying and observing the natural world and creating art. Her eyes cast a glance on a painting hanging on the nearby wall. The poster shows twin towers standing amidst desert, surrounded by pyramids, money and arms, an image that immediately resonates with you, bringing memories of loss, pain and destruction.
For Siff, it also draws back the memory of a postcard that she found in 1979. “It was called ‘two in time’ and if you tilted it on one side you could see the twin tower and on the other a pyramid,” she says remembering how she found the artist’s dual image representation fascinating and drew inspiration for painting ‘ material world‘.
Siff who enjoys living in Santa Monica’s artistic and politically progressive community speaks about the events that led to her interest in political art. Siff had to discontinue her MFA in Film and TV studies at UCLA, after her first born was diagnosed with autism. While taking care of her son’s special needs, she witnessed the lack of opportunities that existed for people with disabilities. This led her to actively engage in promoting work of people with disabilities, specially artists. One of her art work ‘ Speaking Thunder’, an interactive installation placed at the Santa Monica Place in 1993 focused on providing opportunities for people with disabilities. “I was really interested in getting people with disabilities hired at the Santa Monica Place, but I don’t think it really happened,” she says with a look of disappointment, adding that, people with disabilities should have a chance to become valued employees.
While Siff’s interest in political art had always been there, it wasn’t until recently that she got the opportunity to work on it professionally. Thanks to the 18th Street Art Center’s residency program, Siff’s project ‘Making Change’ won an artist fellowship for 2010 theme: ‘ status report: the creative economy’. In her project, Siff addressed how the internet plays a major role in this new artistic economy and included a high degree of public engagement by setting up a virtual marketplace and a physical store housing artworks, crafts, clothing, prints, paintings and more from artists all over Los Angeles. To include artists whose works would bring diversity, Siff selected them on their responses to several questions pertaining to the relationship between art and activism and if the medium of art could be used to effectively represent political and environmental issues. The interviews of these selected artists have been documented by Siff on her blog: Art of Making Change.
Vamp and Tramp booksellers and Etsy.
Elena Siff hopes to continue making statements through her art and being the change that she wants to see.
How you can support ‘making change’ ?
On October 23 from 6-10 p.m., at the 18th Street Project Room, Elena Siff will have an opening reception for her project Making Change. The project room houses several artworks, crafts, clothing, prints, paintings, powerful posters, books, calendars from the Center for Political Graphics and more original art by artists all over Los Angeles. Geared towards creating social awareness about our environment and society, at project room, you will not only be inspired but also find something that resonates with you and your beliefs.
Making Change, Project Room, 18th street Arts Center
October 18 – December 23, 2010
Thursday through Saturday
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Artist receptions: Saturday, October 23, 2010
[On Nov 2, if you are visiting 18th street Arts Center for voting, swing by Elena Siff’s Project room between 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.]
The Making Change store is open now and looks great..open Thur/Fri/Sat from 1 to 5pm till Dec. 23rd. ..Big public reception is Oct. 23rd from 6 to 10pm...would love to see you there!! Excellent etsy sellers have work on view!!