We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Zunino and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Since I was five years old, I wanted to be an artist. I spent much of my time daydreaming, imagining how I would draw the animals, minerals, and plants I saw around my childhood home. Growing up nearby an undeveloped eucalyptus forest in the hills of Hayward, California, I had an abundance of subject matter to transform into my own visual interpretations of them. Though being surrounded by nature inspired me to continuously create new bodies of work, I attribute much of my creative pursuit to my mom, Kathleen. She encouraged me to do what I loved no matter how difficult the journey might be. For many years, she brought home pens, pencils, and scraps of blank paper from the clinic where she worked for me to use how ever I wanted. She never doubted my potential and made sure I had all the tools and support I needed to thrive.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Influenced by Art Nouveau and traditional printmaking, my ink drawings and digital works explore impermanence. I use the natural world to define decay not as the disintegration of a prior life, but a transition into another state of being stemming from old skin, fur, and feathered ends. Life spawns from decay at the cost of life itself. Remnants of identifiable attributes slowly dissipate under new growth, negating any permanence of self.
This ongoing series began after the death of my mom. When she passed away, it became difficult for me to cope with the thought of someone I loved physically decaying underground. I wanted, instead, to believe she transfigured into something even more beautiful than the person she once was. My first piece in this series, entitled, “Mona Theresa,” is a portrait of my mom becoming the garden of flowers she cultivated in her front yard for many years. Since then, my work has evolved to encompass various intertwining animal and plant hybrids based on this idea of transcending impermanence.
I not only find solace in the work I now create, but purpose. Through grief, I discovered what I wanted to say and how, and I’m proud of all the personal successes and failures that lead me to this point. I’m excited to have published my first coloring book, “Perennial Transcendence: A Coloring Book of Celestial Flora and Fauna, which is a collection of metamorphic animal and plant drawings I created for an art show a few years back, now available on Amazon. I also started a small shop on Society6 with prints and more of my work for purchase.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are tons of lush forests and parks to explore. Some are wedged within crowded cities and others tucked away in quiet residential areas. As an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, I love to hike in the coastal redwood forests of the Oakland hills. Depending on the season and time of day, you can find families of wild mushrooms, vibrant wildflowers along the trails, an array of birds and animals, and towering redwood groves, some of the few left in the world. I’ll usually bring a sandwich, drinks, and a blanket or chair and find a place to sit amongst it all.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom, Kathleen, and my husband, Enrique have been my greatest source for support and inspiration. My mom struggled to overcome her shyness, numerous physical ailments, and broader social barriers while pursuing a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Her strength and relentless efforts to achieve her dream of caring for young children lead to a successful thirty-five year career in the medical profession. Though she pasted away four years ago, her story continually inspires me to move forward and push aside my own fears and internal doubt.
Since we met twelve years ago, my husband has loved and admired my work. He has been there to assist me before and during every art show, helped photograph my work, accompanied me on various hikes and wilderness adventures locally and around the US, and has worked extremely hard to give me the flexibility to pursue my dreams. He is also the most honest person I have ever met and has always given me his true opinion. His unconditional love and mentorship has made me a better person, artist, entrepreneur.
Other: For Society6 shop & Coloring Book: linktr.ee/elizabeth_zunino_art
Portrait photos of me were taken by Enrique Antonio Tabares (my husband). www.enriquetabares.com