Arts & Culture

Consciousness and creativity

For Wichita artist Elly Fitzig, consciousness and creativity are one and the same. Her paintings are a multi-hued manifestation of the inner journey she’s embarked on. She shares them to inspire others to examine themselves.

For 10 years, from November 2001 to November 2011, she completed one painting a day, compiling a catalogue of more than 3,600 works. In her 16th solo exhibition, “Paradise Lost and Found,” she’s exploring what happens when comfort zones are left behind and intensive self-exploration begins. The show, featuring 28 recent paintings, is on display at Bob Schwan Studios through Sept. 7.

“The title of the show came about from the fact that almost two years ago I moved out of my home and set out on my own, living around the corner from my husband and dogs, and essentially decided to explore how I could develop my own consciousness,” Fitzig said. “It’s the inward journey. That’s where the title comes in.”

The 64-year-old said that when she initially left, she felt lost being away from familiar surroundings. During the past two years, though, she’s found much through a regular meditation practice and spiritual retreats with her husband, Sandy. She’s aimed to develop a higher level of self-awareness and open herself up to detachment. It’s a mindset that expresses itself on canvass.

“No matter how old you are or how much understanding of art you have, she’s really easy to talk to,” gallery owner Bob Schwan said. “As she has more and more shows, people get attracted to her and her art. They don’t feel intimidated. That’s helped her following get bigger.”

Her works are extemporaneous, with bold strokes, pulsating colors and whimsical brush loads. Many are literal — such as her “Namaste” painting featuring a meditative woman in a peaceful state. Others are more abstract, yet demonstrative, like her “Port in a Storm” piece, a fit of stormy colors that allude to conflict with a red flame of hope dancing in their midst. Some carry an allegorical message. “When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint Them” is a vibrant bowl of lemons sending a reminder that you can out-create negative circumstances. The show’s centerpiece, “Lean on Me,” is large, enthralling and complex, centering on two women resting near a tree. It’s a visual exploration of femininity and awakening consciences.

“None of these paintings were ever planned,” Fitzig said. “There are no sketches that are done; they’re all completely spontaneous. It’s up to me to show up and just get out of my own way.”

Fitzig said she only premeditates a work that she has been commissioned to do. Spontaneity is a central theme not just in Fitzig’s art, but also in her outlook on life. It’s part of the spiritual development that ultimately links back to her artistic expression.

“It’s random, and it’s the universe that is making it happen. It has nothing to do with how I may be personally feeling at the moment,” she said. “I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about universal questions lately. Who am I? What do I really want? What’s my dharma, how can I serve?”

Often, figures will simply manifest onto her canvass, such as with her darker painting “Tumbrel,” depicting Marie Antoinette being led to the guillotine.

“She just showed up,” Fitzig explained. “Everybody’s welcome, no matter how dark it may be or how joyful it may be. I could be having a perfectly wonderful, happy day and do something like this.”

Schwan said Fitzig has become a well-known commodity in the local art community. It’s the richness of her work and the vastness of her collection that attracted him to invite her back to show at his studios.

“She’s shown at our gallery in the past, and that was very successful,” he said. “We’ve noticed that she seems to be growing quite a following. We like to bring artists back after a couple of years if they’ve produced enough new work. It seems to me that more people are talking about her and that a lot of people know her. A lot of people have an opinion about her work.”

Having accomplished her goal of more than 3,600 paintings in 10 years, Fitzig continues to paint regularly. It’s easy for her to identify how her works have evolved since stepping outside of her comfort zone.

“There’s more depth to them now,” she said. “There’s a lot more going on meaning-wise.”

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