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About the Work


In addition to her large-scale installations, Laura Elkins has developed the self-portrait-as into a distinct genre of figure painting that embraces the complexities of contemporary life. The artist is best known for her self-portraits as First Ladies. By dangling between the images of First Ladies and her own reflection, an inherently performative act of painting, the artist explores the American riddle. She has subsequently added other personae to her self-portrait-as portfolio including Christine Blasey Ford, Frida Kahlo, Greta Thunberg, and as Freedom, the sculpture that crowns the US Capitol.


Check out the blog Blovid to see the very latest work, where Elkins explores new portrait ideas inspired by the pandemic.

See a Zoom studio visit on Facebook. Go to video marker 25.14


About the Artist

Elkins graduated from the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 1974 (the first UVa class to admit women), where she also studied figure painting and drawing. Having had her fill of institutional sexism, she returned to Oxford, Mississippi, her hometown, determined to begin her career as a self-taught artist. She was inspired, in part, to follow this path by Theora Hamblett, who opened her studio to Elkins. Later, the artist shared Hamblett’s earlier patronage by Betty Parsons, who became Elkins’s mentor and exhibited her work in 1980 when she moved to New York.

In 1993, Elkins received a grant funded by the NEA, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for her first major art-and-architecture project, Why There Are No Great Women Artists: The Children's Room, which translated her series of paintings, The Birth of Housework, into architecture. Elkins was the Forsyth Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2008 and joined the Sante Fe Art Institute’s Immigration/Emigration Residency in September 2015. In February 2020, she joined the Escape to Create Residency in Seaside, Florida and in May 2020 (COVID postponed until 2021) Vermont Studio Center, courtesy of an Artist/Writer Grant.

Elkins's work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibition world-wide and is included in many private collections. In New York in 2015, Tikhonova&Wintner exhibited  First, She’s a Lady! a 15-year retrospective of The White House Collection, self-portraits-as First Ladies.

In 2018, commissioned Elkins to create She Works Hard for the Money for Federal Project No. 2, curated by Joanna Lehan.

In 2017, The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College of the University of Mississippi commissioned America Selfie, a major, site-responsivie, psychosexual history painting.

A monograph of the artist’s paintings Summer in the City was published by Enlightening Press in 2015. Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida, Loyalty Books in DC, and Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi have hosted signings.

Laura Elkins lives in Washington DC, where she maintains a home&studio nine blocks from the US Capitol.