Photo courtesy of Elizabeth King
Elizabeth King, who has worked since 1985 as a professor in the Department of Sculpture and Extended Media at VCU, says her sculpture career began with her interest in making puppets as a child. Now, King’s work is viewed as more than just a creation from art class.
After an anonymous nomination and application process, King was recently awarded the Anonymous Was A Woman Award. This year, 10 female artists over the age of 40 were awarded this grant of $25,000, allowing them to do whatever they can to further their art careers.
“I was an art nerd in elementary school," King reminisced. "I was in love with everything that had to do with three dimensional materials. I went on to art school and it continued. I got more and more involved with the design and creation of figures that had increasing capability for movement.”
Nearly 200 women, usually at turning points in their careers, have received the award since its establishment in 1996.
“I’ve known about this award for years. It’s an unusual award in the sense that it’s for women over 40, and I have seen it really make a profound difference in the careers of women. I don’t know who nominated me but I’m thrilled to be in the company of past and current winners,” King said.
King is best known for her work combining sculpture and stop-frame animation. She had her first experience with this type of work about 20 years ago, and has taken her work to a new level since then – although she still works with traditional media such as wood and clay.
She sculpts body parts reduced in scale, such as half-life-size heads and works to let those installations interact with film content.
“I’m fighting two battles: One to obtain the emotion of the figure and two to accomplish movability,” said King. “I realized the figures were instruments and the poses were like small pieces of choreography. The integrity of the pieces as instruments is as important to me as their power as sculptures.”
As far as the grant goes, King plans to use the money to buy herself a very valuable asset: Time. She will take half a year off from teaching to work in her studio on two projects. One is a solo sculpting undertaking of portrait heads and another is a book she's been working on for ten years about a 16th century automaton.
“I’ve been teaching full-time for more than 40 years,” explained King. “[This award] is terrifying in the sense that now it’s my turn to deliver the goods and face the challenge. It is really a tremendous boost to be given the chance to work without interruption and to be able to finish.”