National Museum of Women in the Arts
Elizabeth Newman
1952 - present
Photograph of Elizabeth Newman, by Erin Middleton, unknown date, courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
Grand Haven
Phonetic Spelling:
ee-LIHZ-ah-behth NOO-mehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Sculpture, Installation Art
Artistic Role(s):
Assemblage Artist, Installation Artist, Mixed Media Artist , Multimedia Artist, Sculptor
Artist's Biography:
Elizabeth Newman’s found object assemblages conjure a melancholy reverence for the past. Her sculptures, often parts of larger installations, transform familiar objects into powerful commentaries on memory, history, nature, and the human condition.

Born in Grand Haven, Michigan in 1952, Newman enjoyed spending her time on the beach collecting discarded and weathered objects. Her fascination with natural elements such as bird eggs, insects, and even the animal skins from her father’s tannery, as well as her attraction to collecting and sorting forgotten jars, bottles, scraps of wood, and other objects with unknown pasts, contributed to Newman’s interest in making something new from these old fragments.

Newman studied art in 1974 and 1975 in Munich at Ludwig-Maximillians Universitat and continued her education at Michigan State University where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1978. From 1982 to 1984, Newman completed her graduate studies at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts. Her interests spanned a broad range of media, originally drawing from fiber arts, and developing into sculptural assemblage.

Many of Newman’s works are integrated in site-specific installations. In 1991, Newman joined other internationally recognized artists including Ann Hamilton, Chris Burden, Jannis Kounellis, and Joyce Scott for Places with a Past: New Site Specific Art in Charleston, for the “Spoleto Festival U.S.A.” Artists were invited to create installations that were rooted in the history and culture of Charleston, South Carolina, and Newman installed her work in a historic eighteenth century home. Responding to the history of her chosen location, she created a series of pieces using found objects, honey, talcum powder, and milk in order to discuss the role of African-American nurses in affluent white families during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Critics often describe Newman’s approach to working with found objects as having a particular reverence for the past. Often appearing as reliquaries, these forgotten items are given new meaning as precious objects, which raise broader questions about domesticity, identity, and history.

Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1982-1984) Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA (1975-1978) Ludwig-Maximillians Universitat, Munich, Germany, (1974-1975)
Related Visual Artists:
colleague of Jannis Kounellis colleague of Chris Burden colleague of Ann Hamilton colleague of Joyce Scott
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Artist Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1988) Individual Artist's Fellowship, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago, IL, USA (1987) Special Assistance Grant, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago, IL, USA (1986)
Earliest exhibition:
Elizabeth Newman, School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1984)
Artist retrospective(s):