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Elizabeth Shanahan

This collection is named Sommesso, which translates to something like quiet. As a chronic oversleeper, the sight of the earliest skies of morning has always been a sign to me that I can slow down. I can breathe. I can relax. In a culture that prizes busyness, hustle, and even exhaustion itself far above rest, breaths, and pauses, these morning skyscapes seemed to me a perfect way to invite viewers to favor the latter, if only for a moment.

The wild, revolutionary quiet of morning invites us to pause, to breathe, and to notice our own smallness in this huge, rotating ball of rock and water, sailing through the untold vastness of an unknown universe.

When I notice my smallness, I also notice the overwhelming sense of my own essentialness. Without me, the world will turn. The universe will expand on in its unknowability. But I will never be repeated. In spite of and maybe because of my brevity, I am essential, irreplaceable, unrepeatable. And in that noticing, I know in the deepest part of myself that I am loved. I am loved in a way that I can never understand, but that fills me like a cup.  In this realization, I come to the conclusion that quietude, extravagant morning skies, invigoration, excitement, rest, and pause, are all inextricably linked. 

We search in our work, in our families, in our friends, in meditation, in physical exertion, in sleep and busyness and quiet for some sense of purpose and belonging.  But all we need to discover that same thing we desperately pursue, is to stop pursuing. To halt. To rest. To breathe. To pause. To notice. You are small. You are irreplaceable. You are loved.

I hope that when you view these paintings, you will take that long moment to feel your place in the universe. I hope that you will allow your cup to be filled. I hope that the calm of sommesso will fill and overtake you.


Elizabeth Shanahan is an artist in the Winston Salem area of North Carolina. She makes abstract mixed media paintings inspired by nature. She received her BFA from Appalachian State University in 2015, also studying at the Academia Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy, and the Camac Centre d’Art in Marnay-sur-Seine, France. Shanahan has exhibited from Florida to New York, and Arizona to Paris.

Elizabeth Shanahan was raised in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, surrounded by the extremes of natural beauty – storms, forest, hills, lightning, sun, water, snow – everything that earth has to offer can be found on those ancient slopes.
To Shanahan, these wild places are divinity. They are sanctuary. They are home.

With color, form, and luminosity, with texture and mixed media, her my work aims to echo the sense of security and divinity I feel in the creation of the universe. 

Shanahan currently live in Lewisville, North Carolina with her husband, their three year old daughter, a rescue dog whose main aim in life is never to move or do anything at all, and a small, highly unskilled orange cat. 

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