When you walk into her studio in Long Island City, you are transported back to your childhood. Bursting in color and sparkling in glitter, it’s a world of joy, hope and love. Elizabeth Sutton is a self-taught artistic machine. Her comfort zone lies between butterfly dreams and the end of a rainbow. Elizabeth Sutton Designs is a brand and a movement of survival through art, creativity, and design. Her personality immeasurably draws you into her world of expertly executed linear murals, strong message panels, color coded landscapes, brand logo products, and ambitious collaborations.
I was introduced to her by a mutual friend, Bruce Teitelbaum, the husband of my oldest friend from Bais Yaakov of Queens. He knew that I would relate to her on many levels, especially spiritually. Being an artist myself, I found an automatic happy place with every painting that hung on the walls of her studio. Her studio reminded me of my Crayola boxes, paint kits, brushes, and canvases that saved me during the difficult times in my childhood and the challenging times in my adult life. Among many other works, “Art Heals all Wounds” and “Blessing in Disguise” are two of Elizabeth’s paintings that tell her story.
After many of life’s unfortunate circumstances, Elizabeth took to her paintbrush and built an empire in a very short time. A-list celebrities such Kendall Jenner and Andrea Bocelli have collected her original art. Collaborations with Joe & The Juice and Janovic made her a mega brand superstar. You probably took a photo in front of her bull mural at Wall Street Grill or sipped your drink by her artworks at Doma or walked past her painting on your way to the Spa at the Eden Roc Hotel, St. Bart’s. She’s expanded into home decor with Tilebar and tabletop with Altoona and she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Her honors for excellence in her craft are as numerous as her press articles in the media. She has become an artistic explosion heard across the cross sections of art, design, fashion, décor, and architecture. I knew the questions that I would ask her would have thoughtful, insightful, and truthful answers.
Elizabeth’s mastery of color is a spiritual journey in itself.
Tobi: Do you believe your artistic talent is G-d-given?
Elizabeth: I believe that everything in life is G-d-given, especially innate talent. I never studied art, never took an art class, and I never studied color theory. My career developed out of necessity, hard work, and, I’m realizing now, pain as well. I’m self-driven and work incredibly hard, but I certainly believe that I was blessed with many creative talents. These talents were granted to me from G-d, for which I’m very grateful.
Tobi: Does your art deflect or reflect what G-d has given you?
Elizabeth: My art is a reflection of my life experiences, and my process is definitely a path to heal from challenging obstacles I’ve been through in my life. Growing up religious, I have always been a faithful person, and have continued that spirituality into my adulthood. I express gratitude and pray on a daily basis. I firmly believe that all the obstacles put in my way were put there by G-d to give me strength and the capacity to get through life with a positive perspective.
Tobi: Is there a place in the art world for faith, or is it “fake faith”?
Elizabeth: I hate to say it because I’ll get ‘shunned,’ but I personally feel that much of the art world is fake. I am not sure that the concept of faith is ingrained within the world of the arts. Ironically, I find the nature of the bureaucracy behind the gallery and museum fine art model to lack authenticity and uniqueness. It creates an expectation for people to follow certain paths, and not necessarily focus on talent. I personally don’t find that faith is attached to the art world, but I am certain that individuals within the art world are faithful themselves.
Tobi: Do you need faith to be in the current art arena?
Elizabeth: I feel as though faith is a personal choice that is particular to the individual and not tied to an industry. There are both faithful and not faithful people in all industries. However, I do find that many artists have some sort of belief. This is definitely a generalization, but artistic creators who follow their passions are often making some type of statement, whether it is related to face politics, society, faith, or culture. I don’t want to label the industry and faith as a whole, so all I can say is that for me personally, it plays a role in my life, in my art, and in my capabilities as a mother and human being. I don’t think I’d be able to get through anything without having a strong sense of spirituality and faith that G-d is watching over me and my family and is always protecting us.
Tobi: If your art could compose a prayer what might that look like?
Elizabeth: My dear spiritual advisor, friend, and mentor Tobi Rubinstein got me on a path to lighting my Shabbos candles every Friday, no ifs, and, or buts. The next artwork that I would love to create in the arena of faith is a painting of a photograph of a woman lighting her Shabbos candles. This tradition has taken on special meaning to me. I light my candles alongside my two incredible children, and during these moments I express gratitude to G-d for blessing me with my many talents, with my strength, with my intelligence, with my health, with my family. I ask G-d to protect and watch over all those that I care about. I ask G-d to give me the strength to become a better person and take away any sort of evil that may live inside me and give me the strength to get through any obstacles put in my way. I would like the painting of a woman lighting Shabbos candles to evoke feelings and sentiments of strength, family, love, support, gratitude, and a strong belief in G-d.
Where does color find placement in Judaism? The message of color is seen throughout the Torah. Joseph’s brightly colored coat initiated jealousy and outrage from his brothers. Red unblemished heifers provide the ultimate ritual cleansing with their ashes. The precise shade of blue is woven into the costume worn by the High Priest in the Holy Temple. The rainbow of colors is a promise from G-d to never bring us destruction as He did in the time of Noach.
However, I find the most in-depth reality to color in Kabbalistic teaching. The correspondence between the Divine Emanations/sefiros, and their associated colors, taught by Rabbi Joseph Tzayach (c. 1500 C.E.), explored and explained further by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (author of the “Code of Jewish Law”) in his book “Pardes Rimonim.”
The Divine sefiros and their allegorical colors are as follows:
- Crown/Keter - A blinding invisible light.
The sefiros of intellect:
- Wisdom/Chachmah - includes all colors
- Understanding/Binah - yellow and green
The 7 sefiros of emotion:
- Loving kindness/Chesed - white and silver
- Strength/Judgement/Restraint/Gevurah - red and gold
- Beauty/Mercy/Tiferes - yellow and violet
- Eternity/Victory/Netzach - light pink
- Splendor/Humility/Hod - dark pink
- Foundation/Connection/Yesod - orange
- Sovereignty/Malchus - Blue
Color and the use of color is a deep mediation with each shade created by G-d in Bereishis in the creation of each day. G-d created color to be used in many different circumstances. For Elizabeth Sutton, she lives in the emotions of color with different hues in all aspects of her life and business.
My hope is that the palette and path of your own individual life will connect you to the colorful moments that G-d has blessed you with, and in turn you see the beautiful colors in others.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.