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Issue 13: Elise Wehle
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Q&A with Elise Wehle
Vhcle Magazine Issue 13, Art
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You use a lot of mixed media. Can you tell us a little about this?
Just a couple of years ago I used to do a lot of painting, and I thought I would be a painter instead of a printmaker and collage artist. However, I quickly discovered that painting was very daunting for me. It was difficult to face the endless expanse of a blank canvas, and then when I did, I had a hard time figuring out how to stretch the boundaries of what I was creating. There was just the canvas with its four corners, and I could only add to it. It made me feel kind of stuck. I'm very grateful that there are so many talented painters who overcome these creative stumbling blocks, but unfortunately I am not one of them. Around this time I visited New York, and I fell madly in love with all of the paper stores I discovered. Paper became intensely interesting, and I loved that I could do anything I wanted with it – bend it, cut it, weave it, fold it, etc. I could add anything to it just like with painting, but now I could also take away from the paper itself, and I quickly latched onto paper cutting. I love mixed media and collage art because the boundaries are already set. I often start a collage with a limited set of photos, and working with those limited resources helps me be more creative. I find I am more creative when I have restrictions to fight against, and mixed media gives me just that. 
How long does it take to complete an art piece?
That really depends on the size of the artwork. I recently finished a project with two artist friends in which we had to start and finish an artwork every two days. I was able to stick with those time restrictions, but I only made smaller artworks. Usually I couldn't go much bigger than 11 x 14 inches if I wanted to finish in time. Now when I make bigger work, it takes me days upon days to finish just one piece. 
Spanish Moss
Forest with Smoke
Do you have any favorite pieces?
I do! After I finished The Woman Bouguereau Painted, I put it up on my wall, took a good, long look at it and immediately fell in love. I think it's because I have a thing for old portraits. I'm always curious about who the person is and what his or her life was like and if they really looked like their portrait at all. Maybe that last reason explains why I enjoyed disguising this woman in pattern and paper cuts so much. One of my most recent works has almost become a personal favorite. I finished Cloudscape just last week, and it was my first experiment with three dimensional work. First I cut out the pattern on the bottom layer like I usually do, but then I deviated from my normal routine and created a second layer with even more paper cuts to put on top. I used pins to hold up the top layer. Maybe I like it so much because so often my experiments don't turn out how I want them to, but I honestly liked this one.
What are some of your inspirations?
I definitely find inspiration from city walls covered in old and new posters. I can almost see the history of the wall when I tear off one poster only to discover another one underneath. They're like mini-diaries, records of how weather and time have changed them. I love when all the different layers of posters turns into one giant collage. I try to copy that look in a lot of my work.
Of course, I'm inspired a lot by other artists. The work of paper artist Donna Ruff is what first triggered me to experiment with paper cutting. I also love Peter Gentenaar's paper sculptures. Their influence isn't as obvious in my own artwork, but the way he manipulates paper into different shapes and patterns definitely inspires me to push the boundaries of the medium. 
Favorite drink?
I'm probably too old for this, but nothing does it for me like a chocolate milkshake from Red Robin. It's the best!