Elaine Florimonte’s day often starts out over coffee in the morning while she touches base with some of her high school art students. They come in early to talk about the parallels between art and life and what to do when something goes wrong in a painting—philosophical stuff. “It’s a privilege to be present in their lives at these moments when 15 to 18-year olds are forming their identities,” she muses, “and I stay connected to about four or five each year, following their progress through college.” In the classroom Elaine teaches techniques and various media while coaching them through the standard processes of making art. Sometimes she picks up the brush and paints on her own canvas to get a point across, a technique she learned from one of her own teachers during her high school days. It was this particular teaching model that convinced her to study art and then become an art teacher herself.
Elaine acquired her undergraduate degree in art education with a minor in graphic and computer design at Radford University and then stayed for another three years to gain her MFA in two dimensional media. Her computer graphics portfolio and gregarious personality got her a job with the Fairfax County Office of Staff Development and Training followed by teaching stints in Oakton High School, Centerville High School, and finally Westfield High School where she heads up the art studio program today.
In tandem with her teaching career, Elaine practiced the art of painting. First in a tiny office with a cardboard easel and a sheet of paper taped to the wall so it wouldn’t get spoiled. Painting purely for enjoyment. Her confidence increased as she entered art shows in Berryville Virginia’s gristmill fundraisers, but realistic subject matter evolved into more abstract works over time. She came to realize, like artist Richard Diebenkorn, that “It is not a matter of painting life. It's a matter of giving life to a painting… [It’s about] putting down what I felt in terms of some overall image at the moment today, and perhaps being terribly disappointed with it tomorrow... trying to make it better and then despairing and destroying partially or wholly... getting back into it and just kind of frantically trying to pull something into this rectangle that made sense to me.” When Elaine begins to paint in this way, it is like she’s taking a step into an unknown place, surrendering to a process in which the paint and a flick of the wrist lead the way to an image that is synchronized with head and heart.
Elaine’s first solo exhibition Accumulation at Touchstone Gallery includes large works, diptychs and small 6”x 6” paintings from her summer project of creating one painting a day for 30 days. Whether large or small, these paintings reveal layer upon layer of color, brush strokes and shapes. The paintings may be abstractions from a sculpture she photographed on a recent trip to Greece. Or they may begin with overlapping drawn images that come and go until a non-objective status is achieved. “The light and shadow patterns describe, or are metaphors, for people’s overlapping lives,” she says, “plus I’m inspired by artists Paul Cezanne, Andrew Wyeth and Helen Frankenthaler.”
To be experience the movement of Elaine’s veils of color and movement, visit Accumulation at Touchstone Gallery from November 30-December 23, 2016. Wed-Fri 11-6 and Sat-Sun 12-5. Opening Reception is Friday, December 9 from 6-8:30 pm. Encore Reception Sunday, December 11 from 1-3 pm. Artist’s Talk at 2.901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20001; www.touchstonegallery.com --Rosemary Luckett