Freedom Mentional: Interview with Artist Elliot Cowan

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Elliot Cowan
Freedom Mentional is a new exhibition by Elliot Cowan that is due to run from May 28th to June 19 at The Garage Art Center gallery.



Freedom Mentional is a new exhibition by Elliot Cowan that is due to run from May 28th to June 19 at The Garage Art Center gallery. The show will feature works created by award-winning Australian-American artist, animator, writer, and educator Elliot Cowan.

Elliot works in a variety of media including drawings, prints, cardboard sculptures, and paintings have been shown in Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston, Los Angeles, Chatanooga, Chicago, and New York. Working in the realm between fine art, design, and moving image, Elliot creates unique and whimsical characters that are versatile and come alive on different platforms including animation, photograph, print, and sculpture.

Elliot CowanFreedom Mentional presents a new collection of sculptures using polymer and epoxy clay, incorporating animation influences, cowboys, barnyard animals, gods, and goddesses. The exhibition takes place during ‘Queens Rising’, a month-long, multi-disciplinary arts celebration created to highlight Queens borough’s culture and creative diversity; the Garage Art Center is proud to be part of the programing partner. (https://queensrising.nyc/)

Elliot Cowan recently discussed his work via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in becoming an artist and how did you start experimenting with multimedia?

Elliot Cowan (EC): I have been an artist as long as I can remember. All my first memories are of drawing and tracing; I guess I was born into it. I have always played with different mediums. When you’re interested in animation, you’re exposed to all kinds of techniques that, especially when you’re young, you’re compelled to try and copy. Sometimes I can’t be bothered dragging out the paint so I take a break from painting and turn to sculpture. Then I get sick of being covered in glue so I’ll go back to drawing and follow that path until I find something other scratch to itch.

Elliot CowanMM: Why did you start working with animation and creating your own characters?

EC: I was always interested in animation but for a long time I never had a clue how you did it. This was long before the internet and digital tools. When you’re a cartoonist you’re always playing with characters. It gives you the chance to rule over your own people and when you’re young you’ve got some control over other people because you’re in charge of their fates!

MM: What are some of the most unusual materials you’ve used in your creations?

EC: I don’t think I use much unusual but I’ll use whatever is laying around: cardboard boxes, wooden skewers, chopsticks, plastic tubing, expanding foam, old cans, paper plates. Whatever seems to work.

MM: Out of all your characters and sculptures, have you any favorites? If so, which ones and why?

Elliot CowanEC: I usually like the last one I did the best. For me, art is a journey, with the journey being more important than the destination. I learn something new with each thing I build and I apply it to the next thing. I do have a soft spot for my Boxhead and Roundhead animated characters because that was a long journey over several films and I got to know them well and they’re very personal to me.

MM: How did you get your work known and get through opportunity to show it worldwide?

EC: I’m an international person! I’m from Australia. I lived in London and now Queens. I’m reasonably prolific and post a lot of my work online and try and be involved and engaged as much as possible with those people who like my stuff, so it gets out there.

MM: How long did it take you to complete the pieces in this show?

EC: Depends on how busy I am with other things in my life. Sometimes a single evening. Sometimes with something bigger I’ll chip away at it over a week or two until it’s done. I don’t have a lot of space to work in so working smaller and quicker suit me best.

MM: How did you find out about The Garage Art Center and secure a show with them?

Elliot CowanEC: I had a big solo show at Flushing Town Hall in 2018 and through the grape vine Garage Art Center came to me. Conveniently they’re right down the street which is nice. Big thanks to them for having me, too.

MM: What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?

EC: I’d say two things: the connections I’ve made with likeminded artists around the world and the time I spent at Wayne-O-Rama, artist Wayne Whites big, interactive art and history playground in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I went down for a few days to help out and it was a life changing experience for me. The dream of a lifetime.

MM: What events, projects, or other exhibitions are coming up soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

EC: Covid has made it hard to plan for a lot so I don’t have anything coming up, but I’m always posting work on Instagram and Twitter so you can come look me up there and maybe buy something. You can find all links at www.elliotelliotelliot.com