Liz Chilsen

Liz Chilsen

Forest Park, IL


Liz Chilsen is a Chicago-area artist. Her works explore connections between human spirit, ancestral time, and physical place. Intuition is a driving force in her practice. Whatever the medium, she tunes in to the moment and physical presence, bringing form to her perception.

Chilsen is Founder and Director of “Lessons of Place”, a photographic study of endangered places funded in part by Illinois Humanities and centered in small towns and rural areas in Illinois. Her photography includes a long-term study of place dynamics, immigration, and family.

Ms. Chilsen’s work has been exhibited throughout the US and internationally and is held in collections at Detroit Institute of Arts, Wisconsin Historical Society, Nicaragua Cultural Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Illinois Comer Archive, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Chilsen is recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an Individual Artist Fellowship

From the Illinois Arts Council, an Illinois Humanities Bicentennial Action Grant, a Telly Award, National Educational Media Award, and Intercom Award at Chicago International Film Festival. She has been artist in residence at Ragdale Foundation, Chicago Artists’ Coalition, and Hyde Park Art Center’s Center program.

Chilsen holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College and a Bachelor of Science in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is Executive Director of The Riverside Arts Center (RAC).


Artist Statement

In smoke-firings I perform on ancestral lands in the Wisconsin Driftless, I collaborate with fire which records its traces on clay. “Beelzebub Charm” is named in reclamation of a nickname my father had for me. “Beelzebub” is a name for the Devil while “Charm” draws on the positive power of fire to clean and heal.

The work references the impact of fire in my own and my family’s history as well as the force of nature’s elements which we only control to some degree.

The sculptures are smoke-fired in small batches, fueled by materials gleaned from my collections and memorabilia - old newspapers, notes, and messages, seeds, and branches. I experiment with minerals and materials that lend color and tone.

Chance and acceptance of what the process provides are important elements in the making.

These works are grounded in family and place, loss and attainment, & the cleansing power of fire, which features prominently both here and in my history.

Powerful, terrible, formative, creative, fierce. Both in the life of my ancestors, and in my work.

My ideas are honed in duality and multiplicity, and a deep interest in storytelling, history and place have long been a part of my artistic practice.

Liz Chilsen, Beelzebub Charm, 2023, Porcelain, 3" x 3" x 2"