This exhibition has been three years in the making. Elizabeth Gorek was looking through old family photographs some years ago and came upon images of her mother and two aunts on a beach in the 40’s. She loved the grace in the bodies and the bathing caps created an alluring negative space around their heads. These were pre-television times when summers were spent by lakes and pools and beaches. The women are sisters, unselfconsciously comfortable in their bodies and at ease with each other. When she began to paint them, Gorek realized that working with the figure in sunlight is in her words, “a feast of color.” She scaled up the bodies, often allowing the heads to extend beyond the canvas, allowing the figure to fill the frame. She began collecting vintage swimming suits and caps and sought to capture that evocative physicality and languor of women spending the day along the water.
Another dimension of the collection is captured in the artist's work with girls. The painting, entitled “Venus”, for example is of a young girl standing in the water. Her hands are crossed in front of her and she appears to be shivering. Reminiscent of the artist Bouguereau in the painting “The Broken Pitcher”, the girl is not quite a child anymore and not yet fully a woman. She is the embodiment of passing innocence. When asked about the work, Gorek replied, ” I have a teenage daughter and having been a teenage daughter, I know the tidal wave of transition that is trapped, one minute brooding and small and the next in full strut. Some moments say it all.”
Swimming suits with their stretched fabric and bright colors are the perfect subject for oil paint and Gorek is up to the task of capturing the movement of the material against the female form. Having a grandmother who was a graduate from the Art Institute in Chicago and a mother who was a notable landscape painter, Gorek grew up with the smell of oil and turpentine. Inspired by what her mother could do and how it would engage her so completely, she took up the brush from an early age and began the lifelong habit of observing everything, trying to capture visually what is happening on a deeper level. She explains, “ I am drawn to the unguarded moment, stripped of artifice, a caught thought trapped in the body that betrays an inner life.”