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Valerian: Dark Fashion Gothic Portrait Art by Elaine Foster  




Elaine Foster (Valerian)



Elaine Foster ("Valerian")

A life-long resident of Vancouver, Canada, Elaine (also known as "Valerian") received her formal arts training at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, where she graduated from the four-year Studio Diploma Program in 1991. At the age of 39, she has already attained a level of public success. She participated in Vancouver Step Magazine's 'New Urban Street Art' benefit project for AIDS Vancouver, working alongside such local artists as 12 Midnite and Joe Average, and was recently featured in New York's Art Business News magazine in an article on emerging artists. Her works have been on display in many different institutions, including the Level II Gallery in North Vancouver, the Delta Arts Council Gallery, the BC Festival of the Arts, the Surrey Art Gallery, Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre Gallery, and Gastown's Ironworks Studio. However, her preference has been to exhibit in trendy cafés and cabarets about town, where her subject matter and target audience spends most of its time. Some of these Vancouver venues have been the SoHo Café, the Arts Club Lounge, Spirals Cabaret, and Stages Cocktail Lounge.

Her focus in art school was figurative painting, inspired by unusual-looking models from the pages of European fashion magazines. Eccentricity has always been a motivating force for Foster, whose involvement in alternative urban subculture has been a way of life for more than 20 years. Her early paintings of strong, moody, strangely beautiful women reflect both an aura of aloof elegance, and nostalgic romance. More recently, her driving force has been the unseen beauty of Vancouver's urban nightlife. Although these images are portraits of the local underground club scene, they still posses that detached strength her earlier subjects displayed.

Ray Dearborn, editor/publisher of Vancouver Step Magazine described Elaine's paintings as "reminiscent of French poster art of the 1920's". They are representative of her passion for the café-bar/coffee house atmosphere. An atmosphere that is currently enjoying a kind of renaissance; café culture seems to be multiplying in North American metropolises at a feverish pace. Foster has also always had a strong interest in alternative nightclub life. Her fascination with the Gothic subculture adds a dark tinge to her work (according to Jenny Sherman, Assistant Editor of Art Business News magazine, Foster "fuses seemingly discordant themes to render her images"), giving it a subtle edginess not frequently seen in portrait painting.

Like her female subjects, Elaine's nickname "Valerian" reveals a subtle coyness; the name was derived from the valerian plant, the root from which is used in homeopathic medicine to reduce anxiety and facilitate sleep - basically, a kind of sedative. Although perhaps this coyness is more contemplative, as the confident but demure faces of her female portraits suggest.

Elaine received certification from the Professional Picture Framers' Association in 1999. She worked as a custom picture framer for over 12 years, preserving fine art for high-end privately owned galleries. She recently started her own fashion accessories business, called "Art of Adornment", featuring hand-crafted Victorian and Gothic-influenced jewelry and accessories. Her elaborate beaded necklaces, chandelier earrings, feathered top hats and découpage wood box handbags are available for purchase over the internet at Art of Adornment.

The Art of Elaine Foster ("Valerian")

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More Information:

Fostering Talent: The Art of Elaine Foster (*wmv format - Windows Media Player required) - 9 minute documentary film by McCann Multimedia. Learn more about the artist in her own words.

Visit her on FaceBook and DeviantArt.