A champion of minimalism, visual artist Elise Windsor creates optical illusions that truly captivate the eye. Her three bodies of work leave you wondering: “How did she do that?” Without breaking any vows of secrecy (she’s an artist, dammit, not a magician) Elise reveals that all of her photographs are manipulated on-site: the result of origami, sculptures and mirrors. Elise’s old school approach hasn’t gone unnoticed. This year alone, the recent OCAD graduate has won six awards for her work. Among them is the Trinity Square Imagination Zone Competition, where two of her pieces are currently decorating the walls of Bell Trinity Square.
Layton Wu: What attracted you to illusions?
Elise Windsor: I like the idea of photography being an illusion in itself. When [photography] first came to be, it was a mystery to everyone: “How is it even possible that that’s a real person? But they’re on a piece of paper! I don’t understand.” So the whole idea of photography’s beginnings I think really attracted me to illusions.
LW: What do you shoot with?
EW: I have a Hasselblad. The image is backwards so when you look down into it, left is right and right is left. So that took a long time to get used to. And there are no batteries! It’s all just mechanics that are wound by your hand and you press the button, things click and it pops! Every time I take a photo I’m just like, “This is why I take photos: for this sound, only this sound.”
LW: Walk us through your process.
EW: With me it’s all about in-camera versus digital manipulation. So all of the shots with mirrors I didn’t have to Photoshop the camera out. That’s just how I set it up and that’s how it’s meant to be viewed. Before I used to be super rigid, like I thought “Okay, I need to read this kind of paper, I need to go to the library, I need to do all these things”. But then I realized that it’s good to sort of work organically as well. Sometimes my intention doesn’t come through but I’ll still get a photo that I really love. I always have some sort of idea so that everything I do is constructed.
But sometimes I’ll put the mirror in the space and I’ll just kind of go to town.
LW: Of Other Spaces came out of your residency in Syracuse. What are your thoughts on being in a constant state of flux to stay creative?
EW: I think honestly that is the only way I’ve been able to work so far. I mean, specifically with Of other spaces, I was placed in a space that I didn’t know. So you sort of have to dive in and go with it. And I feel like that’s sort of where I become the most comfortable when making artwork: when I’m the most uncomfortable!
LW: In trompe l’oeil;petite maison it says you “Hope to shift the viewer’s perception by introducing another dimension into the picture plane.” Why do you think this shift is important?
EW: It’s to speak about photography’s very beginnings. To understand where it all comes from. People say, “Well, anyone can be a photographer,” and I say, “No, not everyone can.”
It takes so much more to prove that you can be an artist. That you have to push photography to be a skill and into people’s faces and almost be like, “This is what I’ve done! Look how cool it is! It can be art too!”