About me

I’m an artist who’s lived and worked in a number of Canadian cities including Toronto, Saskatoon and Edmonton. I’ve lived and worked in Vancouver since 1999. Many, many years ago I studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and received my MFA from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) in 1993.

This blog is subtitled “Negotiating Doubt” as a way to represent my ongoing struggle to overcome doubt and continue producing as an artist. I discuss this struggle within a number of posts throughout this blog (here, here and here, for example).

My work in drawing, installation and video has been represented in numerous exhibitions, festivals and screenings across Canada, United States and Europe. My work was included in Facing History: Portraits from Vancouver at Presentation House Gallery (North Vancouver) in 2001 and For the Record: Drawing for Contemporary Life at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2003. I developed a site specific installation of wall drawings for The Gaze of History at the Burnaby Art Gallery in 2012.

An exhibition of my installation Unlikeness, curated by Makiko Hara, is on view at the Teck Gallery, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) until April 25, 2021.

Another installation, Babyface, is part of the Facing Time exhibition, curated by Jordan Strom at the Surrey Art Gallery until March 27, 2021.

My projects have been characterized by an interest in representations of maternal ambivalence, notions of the parasite, interrogations of portraiture and the representation of ambiguous identities.

For many years I focused on the topic artist-mothers. A collection of resources can be found here. In 2000 I co-produced a conference for artist-mothers, First Person Plural for Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) in Winnipeg. Essays considering my identity as an artist mother have been included in Mothering Canada: Interdisciplinary Voices (2010) and Reconciling Art and Mothering (2012).

I’m a sessional instructor at Emily Carr University (Vancouver) and have developed numerous participatory drawing projects for adults and children at galleries, schools and community centres. A revised version of a guest blog post I wrote for the Vancouver Draw Down about drawing in everyday life can be found here.

I maintain an ongoing commitment to collaboration, writing and teaching. You can find my website here, a Wikipedia entry about me here, my FaceBook page here and my Instagram feed here.

11 thoughts on “About me

  1. Tanja Smit

    Hi Elisabeth,
    Scrolling the internet, looking for images for my brush&ink classes I found your work and I like it a lot, specially the heads and faces are great! Years ago I made a series of watercolor faces, also without any particular identity and I recognize your questions and fascination for the subject.
    Keep up the good work!
    Best regards from Holland,

    1. emacken Post author

      Hello Tanja,
      Thanks for your interest in my work. I checked out your website and really enjoyed seeing your projects. Is Violeta your daughter? (I’ve done a lot of work around being an artist mother.) The photos of the shower drawings are very engaging! I love all your explorations with image (and meaning) making. Keep up the wonderful work!
      Best regards from Vancouver, Canada.

  2. Brigitte Spotten

    Hi Elizabeth

    Just read an article you wrote in Reconciling Art and Motherhood which I found really interesting and useful for my research. I love your drawings! My theme is also motherhood but so far I was mainly looking at pre 1920 images which are close to Marian art in style and message. My reading on feminist ideas of motherhood will indeed influence my future work!!

    1. emacken Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Brigitte. I appreciate your interest in my work. If you use “maternity” as a search term on the front page of my blog you’ll get a number of other posts about art and motherhood, including an artist-mother bibliography from 2009.

  3. Mary Trunk

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I stumbled upon your site as I was researching for my own project, “Lost In Living,” a documentary film about four mothers who are also artists. Your drawings are exquisite and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts and feelings about the ambiguity of motherhood and the constant struggles of reconciling the identities of both mother and artist.
    My film is in post-production right now, actually very close to completion but I thought you might be interested in finding out more about it. I spent the last 8 years working on it. The website where you can see the trailer is: http://www.maandpafilms.com/lostinliving. I also post stills and clips from the film on my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/lostinliving.
    Thank you for revealing your personal thoughts so beautifully in words and drawings. It is always so comforting to know that we mother/artists are not alone.
    All the best to you,

    1. emacken Post author

      Thanks for your kind words, Mary. The trailer is amazing…it’s reassuring to know that other women are working on ways to represent the complicated, challenging and ridiculously creative world of artist-mothers.

  4. Angela Perrin

    Hello Elizabeth!!
    I am so happy I finally thought to goggle your name! My youngest son has asked for years for more information on the artist who did the pastel drawing that graces our living room wall!!!Jonah is currently taking a drawing class at a local gallery here in Medicine Hat and has a lot of interest in Art,and artists,especially Canadian artists.We were both thrilled to come upon this site!
    I then pulled out the photo album and fondly went through some old pics of all of you in Saskatoon!! I will look forward to reading up on more of your recent works.

  5. Nicole Smith

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I really enjoy this site. It is only in response to your assignment: Research Project (to look at artist web sites) that I came upon it. As a full-time art student and a mother of two, I don’t have the luxury of time to do as much “puttering around” on web sites as I should…unless it’s “homework.”
    I just wanted to say, I found this page very inspiring, particularly the Bibliography you compiled here – thank you. Your class has been very valuable too.


  6. Susan Roan

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I’m an artist/ mother/lecture from Glasgow, Scotland and I want to say how inspiring it has been to look through your references and your beautiful drawings. Thanks to you, I have finally found some books, interviews and articles to help me with struggles between motherhood and maintaining a creative practice.
    Thank you,

  7. louise blakeway

    I found your thoughts on being a mother and artist very inspiring. I am writing an essay for my college project on the same subject and I am also having great difficulty finding information about artists who are also mothers. I myself am a mother and am currently studying for a degree in Fine Art. I am finding it both exhilarating and exhausting as I struggle to fit in study time with motherhood duties.

    I think your work is great and hope that I will be up there with you in the near future.

    Louise Blakeway


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