This is a special post to wish my best friend a happy birthday because she deserves to be celebrated. Elizabeth Hoffman is not only one of my favorite artists, she is one of my favorite people.
I met Elizabeth 17 years ago in 2002 after we both showed artwork at a store called Glory. Los Angeles Cultural Affairs had a municipal art registry then, and created a program with local businesses. Artists from the registry were selected to show in various creative shops, and some of us got some prime locations. Glory was a great place to show our work, as it was on Melrose, filled with bitchen furniture and neat-o vintage doo-dads. It was a popular place. When I went there to hang some of my paintings, the Hoffman paintings were already installed on the wall and I was so taken with them, I couldn’t stop thinking about how cool they were.
Elizabeth had a distinct palette and style. It was super undeniable. The pieces were obviously handmade and purposely imperfect, folky, and humorous and dark at the same time. I loved the work. So much so, I felt compelled to write an article about her.
At the time, mjp and I had been building up an online magazine for “alternative,” West Coast art. We used this word as an umbrella to cover Outsider art, self-taught artists, and Art Brut. This venture only lasted a couple of years, but it became popular in its time. It was called picklebird. Now I’ve been using the site for a future arts foundation (one day it will be anyway).
I called Elizabeth to see if she wouldn’t mind being interviewed so I could write a better article and she was open, and we wound up talking on the phone for hours. The article, Handmade Hoffman: a Portrait of Elizabeth Hoffman, (<–a Wayback Machine link) came out pretty good for the first real article I ever wrote about an artist. It catapulted me into writing a lot more about other artists and I eventually started to blog for the Huffington Post (though, I haven’t uploaded an article there in quite a long time. I was busy writing a book!)
During the time I was creating picklebird, I also ran a gallery with two other artists in San Pedro called “three.” and I was also able to incorporate Elizabeth into a big group show (“Held Ransom”) that got a lot of press, but the gallery thing did not last long. It was only a year before the partners bailed out, and I was the last one standing. After that, I was only able to keep it going two more months. It later became Walled City run by Marshall Astor, which went on for four more years.
Elizabeth and I became great friends over the following year(s) and she helped me to become the artist I am today. I mean it. She really got me to come out of my shell and be a lot more sociable than I ever was before. I am not that way naturally. Not at all. It was a great challenge, but she made key introductions for me, to many, many people in the art world and helped me to start relationships that would then connect me to others, which then arrived at the ones that got me ahead. I owe her everything for that. But perhaps the biggest debt I owe her is her is how much how much her work has inspired me, and how she as a person has encouraged me to do better as an artist in my own right. She has taught me to not fear being myself–and that my art means something just as it is and wherever I go with it. That I’m enough as a person–as a creative person. She has been entirely supportive of my life, my work, my issues, and she makes me laugh. I couldn’t ask for a better friend with a bigger heart.
So I must acknowledge her on her day.
Happy Birthday E. I love you!
Check out Elizabeth’s Instagram account. You will be glad you did.