Liz Vaughan likes to experiment. “I’m in a phase of learning a lot of new processes,” she says. She’s been developing her stop-motion animation skills for the past two years; a recent example, “Chimney Swifts,” was shown in Redux’s spring exhibition 1 x 1. This film is only a few seconds long, but it reflects some of Vaughan’s alternative video and photography techniques — a simple subject with a strong sense of movement and a hint of nostalgia.
Vaughan’s photographs are mostly landscapes and still lifes. “People feel connected to my Southern landscape subjects,” says the artist. “They feel that because my work is interactive, it tells a loose story, and I’ve recently been using really neutral tones that give it an atmospheric quality.” As far as her stop motion is concerned, viewers respond to her playful, low-fi approach. “It’s not super high-tech,” she says. “Some people have said it’s poetic, although I wouldn’t use that description. I’d call it gritty.”
In Vaughan’s animated world, loose screws and jewelry are buried in flowers and delicate fauna, plant life sprouts from the palm of a hand, and a box sprouts wings, snatching thoughts from the sky before flying too close to the sun and plummeting back to a drawing board. By exploring the relationship between art and nature with the technical medium of animation, Vaughan makes films that look fresh and colorful.
“I’m attracted to a certain kind of aesthetic,” Vaughan explains, “the way I think and move and feel about things.” She can trace this back to an early interest in sculpture. While studying at the College of Charleston, she took a sculpture class with Jarod Charzewski and he boosted her confidence level. “He and my other professors had a huge influence on my education,” she says. With Charzewski’s encouragement, she developed her sculptural and stop-motion skills. But her animated art always fed off her first love, photography.
“As soon as I took my first photography class I knew that was my real passion,” she recalls. The passion had been building for a long time, though. “I blame it on my dad. I remember when I lived out in the middle of nowhere in Georgia, he and I would ride around in his truck and photograph old buildings and trees.” This is still how Vaughan interacts with her environment and chooses to express herself. “If you take the camera out of my hands and replace it with a tube of paint, I would be totally disoriented.”
In 2008, a year before she graduated with a degree in studio art, Vaughan started co-directing Blume, a series of multimedia art fundraisers at Pantheon. She also helped set up Outer Space in 2009, a venue that helped artists and musicians connect with the local community.
She’s presently hard at work co-planning the Receiver Time Based Media Festival. This event will incorporate animation, performance art, and Mac-based media. “There are galleries in San Francisco that are all time-based media. New York, too,” Vaughan says. “It’s important to stand your ground in the Southeast where stuff like this isn’t so prevalent.”
To help pay the bills, the photographer is working on temporary projects, like recording artifacts at the Avery Research Center and helping to build a Lowcountry Digital Library of regionally important documents. She’s grateful for the skilled work, but she doggedly continues to produce her multimedia art too.
Vaughan thinks that painting and printmaking would be a cop-out for her. “People respond more to object-based representational stuff, but it doesn’t scare me that my artwork is less sellable. When I feel more neglected, I only see it as something I feel more passionate about. I’m going to be that much more stubborn and stand behind my more contemporary work.”