December 17, 2015

12/15/15 – Problem-Solving w/ Elizabeth Youngblood

Artist: Elizabeth Youngblood

Location: Parks & Rec Diner


EY – Hot water, Smoked Leek Strata

SRS – Coffee (black), Liege Waffle, side of bacon

Elizabeth Youngblood is an optimizer. On this, our second BWTA, I am reminded of her particular nature, as she picks through the menu at Parks & Rec Diner. I’m in the opposite school, settling on the first good thing I see. Parks & Rec, honestly, you can get lost in the menu—it’s really interesting. Way I see it, I’m in the part of my life where I’ve learned to build long relationships. I’ll be back for you, cinnamon roll.

Elizabeth and I spoke about the difference between art and design. She has a professional design background, and sees it as something wholly different from her art practice. When pressed on this point, Elizabeth outlined this difference in terms of design being “solving other people’s problems” and art-making being “solving one’s own problems.” This resonates strongly with me – I think it’s a perspective-changing way of looking at art to consider it to be problem-solving, first and foremost. Maybe artists just consider different things to be problems.

It’s funny, because a lot of Elizabeth’s sculptural work that I’ve seen reminds me of fashion. Almost as though fashion sketches of jewelry or conceptual designs have come to life in three dimensions. She’s adamant that she doesn’t really think of these pieces as being fashion, or jewelry–really, she even balks at calling it sculpture. She calls it “making stuff.” For someone who sets such a strong distinction between art and design, Elizabeth is much looser in her language regarding the nature of her art. She also brought a few definitely-jewelry items to show me–cuffs and necklaces made of narrow black elastic bands, such an interesting extension of her formal aesthetics. She’ll be selling them just in time for the holidays, at a bourbon and shopping experience at The Lodge this weekend:

The Lodge promo thumb

That’ll be a cool way to check Elizabeth’s signature style, and debate the relative merits of art, design, and their intersection. Although we were determined to talk about art this time, I found myself really interested in Elizabeth’s reminiscences about her upbringing in Detroit–saving up Christmas money for annual shopping summits at Hudson’s Department Store. We ended up off-topic (inasmuch as anything is off-topic…I think BWTA should be a wide-open conversation, always), talking about the nature of gift-giving, thought versus expense, use versus surprise factor. On this, as other things, Elizabeth and I have a slightly different approach and organizing principle to the effort of gift-giving and receiving, but I appreciate her perspective–it is wise, considered, and reflects a life of diverse experience only hinted at through some of the anecdotes she shared with me.

I look forward to our next conversation, and in the meantime, Elizabeth sent me a great song, “Some Enchanted Evening” covered by the Temptations–on the subject of this jam, we definitely agree.

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