elms newport
The Elms (Photo provided by The Preservation Society of Newport County)

Four portraits by artist Elizabeth Colomba will be exhibited in the second floor sitting room of The Elms (1901) from June 26 through September 3, 2018, in a collaboration between The Preservation Society of Newport County and ART&NEWPORT, an organization dedicated to developing and hosting citywide visual arts presentations.

Curated by ART&NEWPORT founder Dodie Kazanjian in collaboration with the Preservation Society’s Curator of Exhibitions Ashley Householder, Elizabeth Colomba: Four Seasonsconsists of four large framed portraits, painted between 2012 and 2018,  in which the seasons are depicted as an allegory of womanhood.  The figures are nearly life-sized so that the viewer is confronted with the power and beauty of each woman.

“We are delighted to be featuring Elizabeth Colomba’s work at The Elms,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe. “Museums and historic sites must make themselves relevant to a contemporary audience if they are to thrive and contribute to their communities.  This juxtaposition of Elizabeth’s recent artwork in a century-old setting is sure to catch the eye and create conversation among our visitors.”

Colomba paints portraits and still lifes focusing on themes of femininity, mythology and history.  She works within the category of traditional Western portraiture but challenges stereotypical and derogatory representations of the black body.  The portraits are installed in the second floor sitting room of The Elms to be in conversation with historic portraits from the Preservation Society’s collection, all of which depict white women of means.

“By generating an environment for my subjects to inhabit a space that honors their presence and place in and through culture and time allows me to redefine not only how black people have been conditioned to exist, but also how black people have been conditioned to reflect upon themselves,” says Colomba.

The sitters are staged in lavish settings – not unlike the room in which the works are hung – and they are serene in their environments, much like the ones permanently on view there.  As visitors make their way through the house, they will encounter these paintings in the sitting room and learn more about them through a special stop on their audio tour.  The installation is included in regular admission to The Elms.

“Elizabeth Colomba is a radical artist,” says Dodie Kazanjian, “using Old Master techniques to pull you into her very contemporary stories.  Her paintings are meditations on what might have been possible if colonial conquest had never happened, and they speak many visual languages at the same time.”

ART&NEWPORT is a non-profit corporation that works closely with local institutions and the City of Newport to educate and create programming that makes use of the city’s natural landscape and history as a place for contemporary art and artists.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history.  Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.