Elizabeth Barenis in Sarasota

Story and Photos by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre
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Through November 23
Art Center Sarasota
Details here

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Normally I explore museums and galleries with my three little ones, but on this occasion I had the opportunity to take a solo day trip to Sarasota.

As I crossed the Skyway Bridge, I thought about the vast number of arts and cultural centers in each of the different counties, from Pinellas County through Manatee to Sarasota county. There is so much to offer on the Arts Coast, and I have barely begun immersing myself. My mission on this day trip was to interview an artist and to view her latest solo exhibition at the Art Center Sarasota.

As I entered the Art Center, I admired the prism shapes protruding from the walls and ceiling. I could see the bold title ‘Elizabeth Barenis: Palmistry’ above the doorway, drawing me into the space.

Elizabeth was professional and welcoming. She told me a little bit about her background. She was born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi. Her family encouraged her artistic pursuits from a young age, and enrolled her in weekly private art lessons.

Elizabeth came to Florida in 2015 for family reasons and stayed because of the thriving arts scene and the support she continued to receive to pursue her art career. She was named a 2017 Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist grantee, and told me, “I have emerged.”

When I asked her about her style, she said that she has been focused on palm trees for the past 3 to 4 years. What started as painting from a night-time reference photo where she admired and reconstructed the patterns and forms, developed into a style she calls “Abstract Precisionism.”

Elizabeth’s work really stands out with a contemporary graphic sensibility – clean precise clean lines and synthesized shapes.

Queen of Palms

I admire Elizabeth for several reasons. The first is her ability to elevate a common subject matter for Florida, the palm tree. Now everytime I look at the light hitting a palm frond a certain way, Elizabeth comes to mind. Secondly I admire her mastery of color in bringing tranquility to the space and a peaceful state for the viewer.

Thirdly, I admire her hands-on approach to making the work – from stretching her own canvas to making the frames, to curating this exhibition space.

Elizabeth and I talked about her favorite pastimes. Her absolute favorite is hanging out with her cat named Charlie. She mentioned that now the weather is cooler, she would like to explore more on her kayak. She is also involved in theatre, and is part of a murder mystery troupe.

Her short movie The Hungry Artist was accepted into the 2022 Ag and Art Film Festival in Vacaville, California, which took place September 14-18. A comical bookending where Elizabeth makes a sale and can afford takeout offers a glimpse into Elizabeth’s artistic process and features Charlie.
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I asked Elizabeth if she had any advice for up-and-coming artists. Her response for staying motivated is, “Make sure you have enough desire and passion to push on through the stumbling blocks. Stay true to yourself, and the work will speak for itself.”

Elizabeth’s solo exhibition Palmistry will be on view until November 23. She also has work on view at two fundraising events, “An Evening of Arts and Culture” on November 7 for the Clearwater Arts Alliance as well as the Creative Pinellas Arts Annual – the opening reception is November 10.

Elizabeth Barenis with her work titled, Where the Wild Things Are

Starting this week you can find Elizabeth taking her arts to new heights with her first mural on the Parks and Recreation Department building located on 1700 Solon Ave in Dunedin.

With all these events, I am certain I will be able to show my children Elizabeth’s ‘Abstract Precisionism’ in person soon.
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Originally published in the Bahia Studios blog

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