This is the program from my solo Art Exhibition in Miami „Just Breathe“, which took place on Friday 06. December 2019. The artwork is inspired by the most formative and tragic experience in my life, the loss of my dear friend and art assistant.
In loving memory of Juan Salas Salzar.
All or Nothing
Butterflies are a universal symbol of transformation. They cross cultures, languages, and geographies but never lose their meaning or their beauty; although individuals’ interpretations of their significance may vary. Butterflies have become an Elizabeth Sutton Collection trademark as they bear true relevance to my life as an artist borne out of the hardship, one that comes from personal loss and growth through trial. Butterflies also mark the beginning of an increasingly technical focus in my art process. Though such butterfly works are typically colorful, the use of black and white is representative of the stark contrast of circumstances I experienced the night of the accident, describing it as going from a ‘high high to a low low.’
A trademark in my art, the butterflies in this artwork are reflective of my signature works that first brought notoriety to my career. Each butterfly is hand-cut and hand-glittered, bearing a unique design. Butterflies are intrinsically one of a kind, which is exactly how I tend to describe myself. I personally encourage others to be their own individuals, as opposed to following the crowd. I like to say ‘Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, but my art is.’
Girl in the Orange Dress
This artwork is part of my ‘Love Series’. My ‘Love Series’ came about after falling in love for the first and only time, post-divorce, while on a trip to Cuba. This series marked a significant transition in my artwork and career, as I began painting my own photographs, artworks that take her 300-400 hours to create due to their level of detail and complexity. In addition to having fallen in love in Cuba, I fell in love with Cuba. I shared this love for Cuba with Juan and Pedro, my 2 Cuban art assistants. I chose to include this artwork in ‘Just Breathe’ as a homage to Juan, his home, and the period of time it evokes in my life. This trip occurred 2 months before the accident, and this series is the last one painted with Juan.
This painting is the last artwork Juan and I were painting together when Juan was killed. Unable to face the work without tears, the work that remained was completed by my team. Though part of my ‘Love Series’, ‘Goodbye Forever’ is riddled with sadness and pain. There are few works within the entire repertoire of my career that carry more meaning for me than this particular painting.
Life is Precious
Inspired by a tragic car accident and part of the ‘Idiom Series.’ For all of my many blessings, a tragic accident that took the life of my dear friend and art assistant, Juan Salas Salazar, was the single most influential incident in my life. It is a lesson to live every moment to its fullest and to value the time we have together with our loved ones on this planet. It also taught me about resilience and the true strength of the human spirit to be able to endure disappointment, sadness and loss, and yet still go on to live, learn and love.
Blessing in Disguise
We all have them. Things that throw us off-course or bring great disappointment and make us question all of the plans we have made. My many losses have translated into a career that has brought me inner happiness, fulfilment, and purpose. Throughout all of the difficulties that accompany divorce, miscarriage, trauma, and death, I have maintained a positive outlook, channeling my pain into work to create beauty and good vibes. ‘This world is about energy, and my goal with my work is to not only bring out the energy of color, but also of perspective’. My philosophy regarding obstacles and setbacks is: ‘You may not be able to see the blessing immediately, but as long as you remember to stay grateful, you will understand the blessing one day.’
Fearless, Survivor, Unstoppable
We are what we think. Sutton confronted my two biggest fears when making the decision to get divorced – fear of divorce and fear of financial insecurity. ‘Having been through divorce and the accident, I don’t think there’s anything that can really shake me. Of course I have fears, but I confront them. That’s what makes me fearless. No one goes through this life unscathed – we are all survivors. It’s a matter of how we use our struggles to grow.’ I am on a mission.
Dance Through the Pain
Music and art are my paths to healing. Part of my ‘Idiom Series’, this particular message was inspired by the many memories I have of ‘dancing through the pain’ with Juan. In fact, it was exactly what Juan and I were doing moments before the car crash. Any time something would blow up during the course of my divorce process, I would take Juan’s hand in my studio and make him dance with me to forget it all, even if just momentarily. ‘At leat he went out doing exactly what he loved. Celebrating art, music, and life.’
Art Heals All Wounds
I use my art as a means of therapy, to heal the pain from various experiences. My theme ‘Shades of Gray’ is to reflect the notion that life is not black and white, but rather shades of gray. It was this realization that made me let go of any and all judgments of others. The juxtaposition of color represents the light at the end of the tunnel that comes after putting in time and hard work to heal.
This Too Shall Pass
The age-old adage is one that has universal appeal and application. No matter how difficult a circumstance might be, ‘this too shall pass.’ It is something I repeated to myself over and over in the months following the accident. ‘As long as you have your health, everything else is just gravy. Just be grateful you are alive.’
Keep It Moving Making Money Moves
Perhaps my favorite within the ‘Idiom Series’, this painting is reflective of how Elizabeth copes. On the tail of divorce and on a mission to stay focused after the car accident in order to continue on my path of achieving financial independence, I put all of my energy into my work. I make my biggest money moves whenever I’m heartbroken. I can either cry about it or I can make moves. Usually, I cry while making my money moves. It’s the perfect combo. I think my fierce focus and determination are setting on a direct path to success.
This painting is a portrait of me and her two children, Miro and Nora – the love motivates me entirely. This portrait is one of only two artworks that I will never part with, and will forever exist as part of my personal collection. I don’t believe there to be any greater love than the love a mother has for her children. I actually don’t think you can truly understand the concept of unconditional love until you have kids. I get all of my strength from my kids. I don’t know how I’d get through life without them. They are my complete heart and soul. As long as my kids are good, I’m good.
I am a self-proclaimed workaholic with a 120 hour a week work/mom life is the true definition of a hustle. With no minutes in between, I go from my studio to my kids and then back to work each night. I encourage other young entrepreneurs to do the same. How can I possibly achieve my dreams of becoming an internationally known name in the world of art and design if I’m not willing to hustle? If you want to see the art of her hustle, follow my social media @elizabethsuttoncollection.
Having grown up as a Modern Orthodox Jew, faith has been ingrained in me since birth. The one time I almost lost faith? After the car accident. But through it all, I maintained an intense sense of gratitude, and through the power of prayer, further strengthened my faith. Gratitude is at the basis of understanding and processing any circumstance. Without gratitude, there is no clarity.
‘The number one piece of advice I can give to anyone going through a hard time, whether it is as mundane as a chaotic day or as grave as something life threatening – just breathe.’ This phrase lives above my bed, as I continually need the visual reminder for myself. ‘Sometimes I forget. Originally, this show was called ‘All The Way Up’. Preparing for this show has been extremely emotionally difficult for me. Through the many tears, I needed to remember to just breathe. So, I changed the name of the show, and it’s the most brilliant thing I could have done for myself.
Be True to Who You Are
This is the one piece of advice I would give to anyone who cared to ask for it. We are all works in progress and a person’s idea of who they are evolves over time. I urge my Instagram followers to forget the distortion created by social media or community norms and its accompanying critiques. We are each individuals and there is no need to fit a mould. Heed the little voice inside and you’ll find the truth behind personal fulfilment and happiness.
Good Vibes Only Charity Box
My first and only sculptural work, this charity box was a healing process for me and my art team. The entire team suffered a tragic loss when Juan passed, and due to the circumstances, there was never a memorial or funeral. This charity box was created for Art Basel 2018, memorialising the one-year anniversary of Juan’s death. The labor and love that went into this charity box was healing for my entire team. To continue to do good in Juan’s name is the only thing I can ask to keep his memory and his love and joy for life alive. This charity box is not for sale. It lives in the entrance of my studio and collects money from those who visit my happy place. Before I go to any important meeting or event, I say a prayer with my team and throw in a $100 bill. It’s my good vibe tribe box. The money goes to a variety of charitable organizations, often United Hatzalah, an organisation whose mission is to save lives.