Elizabeth Courtney is an environmental consultant, a licensed landscape architect and co-author of Greening Vermont, The Search for a Sustainable State. She is a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at Harvard University and has served at the pleasure of Governors Kunin, Snelling, Dean, and Shumlin on various boards and councils of advisors. For nearly a decade, she served on and then chaired Act 250’s quasi-judicial Environmental Board. She was Executive Director of Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) for over 14 years. Now, she helps several nonprofits to fulfill their missions, writes a monthly column on the environment, reflects on—in her watercolor paintings—her 47 years of work to protect the beauty, durability, and functionality of Vermont’s environment.
It was after stepping away from the VNRC in 2012 that Courtney decided to take up watercolor painting again. She realized, as E.B. White has said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” The hanging laundry on the line in her paintings is, for her, symbolic of “taking personal steps to improve the environment. Honoring, in many of these paintings, the act of hanging up the laundry, is a very positive statement. In addition to hanging the laundry, of course, the beauty of the Vermont environment and the architecture of Vermont, can be very inspiring also.”
Some of Courtney’s paintings are small fields of color which draw the viewer in and invite contemplation. She calls these paintings meditations, referring in part to the process she uses to paint them, “I take my brush and paper and drop the color like a raindrop on the paper and that is a repetitive act that I consider a meditation. It takes time and methodical patience.”For her other paintings, finely crafted images of clothes hanging on a clothesline, there’s a more specific message that Courtney hopes people will get. “We’re getting away from using nature, from using physical strength and our ingenuity to do basic, simple functions, and this is one of them. Drying the laundry doesn’t require the use of fossil fuels. You can use the atmosphere, the environment. You can feel good about it. You can feel that you have some control over your contribution to making this a better world. So often I think people are paralyzed by how to react to environmental degradation.”
The work of Elizabeth Courtney will be hanging in our café throughout the month of September. To contact the artist for more information, she may be reached by email.
Check out Elizabeth Courtney’s art at the Co-op through September. To learn more about our Art in the Café program, click here