"Moments of pause have been crucial to my recovery; learning to turn off and just be present with what is, even if it is only for a moment or two."
- Elizabeth Gauss
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Oil on Canvas
30" x 40"
“It’s easy to look at my creative output and recovery and see how it gets bigger, brighter, more colorful. I love looking at that through time and seeing myself get better.”
Several years ago, Elizabeth’s experience with an eating disorder led her to a non-fatal suicide attempt. Art was and remains to be her tool for recovery. She still has a large set of drawings that she made during her early stages of recovery which appear subtle and minimal in form, a stark contrast to her current demanding works.
During recovery Elizabeth made the commitment to stay alive as long as she had art supplies. Since childhood, she has always been creating but creating took on a different meaning when she suddenly found herself in a foreign country with a mental health crisis. Since, art has been fundamental to her existence. From that moment until this moment, Elizabeth hasn’t stopped creating. She sincerely means it when she says “art saved my life.”
“Actually naming that disordered eating led me to almost take my life is important. Eating disorders thrive in silence. If sharing my story is in any way helpful, now is a time where I feel brave about being open. In your disease you get smaller and smaller. There’s a lot of psychological issues around wanting to disappear. To create big colorful art is really the reverse of that. I’ve worked in my art to counter apologizing for my existence.”
The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver was one of the spaces which sparked Gauss’ venture into painting bigger, bolder. She would sit there for hours, taking in Still’s loudly unapologetic works.
“Throughout recovery I was in the habit of going there for meditation once a month. It was a place where I could sit and be with those paintings. If there was anything Clyfford was not, it was that he wasn’t apologizing for his existence.” These were the moments in which Elizabeth reached in and decided she was going to do that for herself. She was going to take space, heal, recover. And she was going to do so with the brush. Her works became bigger, claiming power and space in statement. As she painted this way, she began to feel this way, strengthened by her newfound ability to and desire for claiming space. On her eating disorder recovery she says, “It’s easy to look at my creative output and recovery and see how it gets bigger, brighter more colorful. I love looking at that through time and seeing myself get better.”
Elizabeth often sees similar self disbelief and apologies in others, resonating deeply with those feelings. She circles back to her mantra, “Always Be Creating. Always Be Creating. Always Be Creating.” In her creation, she has been able to look back in time and see herself create tiny minimal artworks to big bold abstract statements. With this view, she is able to see the timeline of healing and of hope, reminding herself and others that it can get better, it will get better.
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