We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Woods-Darby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I remember being 5 or 6 and people asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was almost unwaveringly an Artist.
I think even then I gravitated towards the all encompassing freedom that the artist job title provides.
I liked that it held unknowns. That I couldn’t see all the way down the road, that I didn’t know how every day was going to be or what the end result would look like. I had this deep knowing that if I did it right, followed my instincts, at the end of the day it would sit right in my soul and that’s what I wanted more than anything.
In being an artist, I get to create my own box, my own world, and my own rules.
That emotional and physical freedom affords me so much exploration and curiosity, to delve deeply into myself and create my life as the one I want to wake up in.
I will say with unflinching honesty, that the pressure for perfection that I put on myself in being an Artist and having a beautiful / meaningful life, hit pretty hard while I was a teenager. I wanted to be good and my standards for what good meant was ‘flawless’.
I found that inside pressure to be incredibly stifling. Somedays I could feel the inspiration rising up inside me but then I’d squash it if I didn’t know exactly how to bring it out, because I was afraid of being seen as untalented or uncommitted or messy.
As an adult I still struggle with this. The thing I continue to come home to underneath the perfection and that panic to be perfect, is this deep belief, that actually the messy imperfect art is the art that moves us all. Because we are messy and alive and imperfect human beings. It makes sense to me that what resonates between us wouldn’t be clean or unblemished or absolute.
That’s definitely a big piece of why I fell in love with storytelling. In all it’s forms: film, acting, photography, writing, poetry, paintings, etc.
Those real stories are the ones I feel the most inspired to keep showing up for, and supporting in the folks around me and in the life blood of the industry.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Oh man. The road that’s gotten me to where I am today is definitely not a straight one. I’ve worked everything from being a goat midwife, a door to door solar salesman, waitress, nanny, comedy club host, actor, model, a teacher for LinkedIn and the director of sales for a Colorado soil company. But I don’t regret any piece of my professionally twisting path. At the end of the day, as an Artist I remind myself that it’s my job to make my life [feel] beautiful, not just look pretty in what I produce for the world or what puts food on my table.
As far as my professional artist journey I’d say it started with my family. I grew up on a farmstead on the western slope of Colorado in a family of artists and I fell in love with storytelling at a very young age. The modality didn’t concern me as much as the heart of the story did. On Sundays I’d tune my radio to the staticky country station, playing songs oldies. The music was so simple, four chords and maybe a base line, but what carried it was the story. I’d find myself crying listening to Big Bad John, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. The story and that heartbreak was so compelling to me, even as a child.
So while my methods of storytelling have always been varied, ranging from film to painting to poetry, I think of it like tools or colors on my palette, they each let me bring a certain hue or texture to the way the story is experienced.
In the last 5 years or so I’ve become really fascinated by what happens when we take ourselves out of our proverbial boxes and start playing with mixing our media to tell more varied and alive stories. Which brings me to my latest project:
A multimedia book of poetry, about motherhood.
In the spring of 2020 I became a mama. Which honestly, feels a little vulnerable to speak about. I feel that so often women are told that we can only be One Big Thing.
Mother or Artist. But not both.
And yet, I experience each of these things, not as a hat I put on, but as a deep and intensely personal, almost spiritual, core of who I am.
I could never stop being an artist, just as I will never not be a mother, for the rest of my life.
Maybe it feels extra vulnerable because I had a teacher tell me once that I could be a great actor if I didn’t throw away my life on a man.
And while I know he meant well, those words have haunted me throughout the last decade, as though I’ve always had to weigh my artistic worth and potential against any meaningful connection in partnership. I struggle to imagine him giving the same advice to any of my male classmates.
And yet I feel this is an old story that really does nothing to honor the duality of being more than just one thing. Which as humans, honestly all of us are always more than just one thing.
My latest project is born from this place. A multimedia book of poetry about becoming a mother in 2020. It’s multimedia in that it incorporates my photography and artwork as well as my poetry along with a musical playlist of other artists who inspire me.
Poetry has always been a life blood for me. I wrote extensively while I was pregnant and throughout this past year. I really feel like becoming a mother has sharpened my senses and awarenesses of the world, both good and bad. Things feel more immediate and my heart feels broken open in a way it wasn’t before.
The transition from woman to mother feels so big in a way I feel like our culture does not prepare us for. While we carry our babies we are seen as these radiant vessel of love and light, yet when our children are born I feel as though our culture turns away from us, eyes forward only on our babies.
I have been grappling with this idea of a new identity, with slowly becoming invisible in the eyes of society as I age, and all the ways we tie up our worthiness and value in our beauty, and how we are seen in the world.
It’s felt like a really intense and somehow fitting time to be examining all of this, during this covid pandemic. I feel like we as a nation here in the US have had to grapple with a new collective identity. All the risk assessment, communicating, racial reckoning, loss and isolation has changed all of us. This experience is something we’ve done collectively, even if alone. And somehow that’s both comforting and fascinating to me.
So the book, titled Windows, explores these snapshots of time and feelings in a three year period. From finding out we were pregnant in 2019, through birth, pandemic and all that was 2020, into 2021 as we begin to find ourselves topside in the world again. I’ve really loved working on it. It feels like a really powerful and delicious project that continues to challenge me to show up as my imperfect and human self.
I do find that that old perfectionism rises up in me, especially now with this project as I stake my claim as a mother and an artist.
Maybe it’s that feeling that I need to prove that old teacher wrong, that I can have a family and still be relevant, successful and artistically alive.
And yet, proving someone wrong, isn’t the same as living a wholehearted life.
It really has made me examine what I have taken at face value as the definition of success in our world.
I want to make more room for joy to be a part of the definition of success. For celebrating the messy middle of projects as success. Of putting the emphasis on how we feel in our lives, as success, rather than how much money we make, how much we produce and how we are perceived or judged by the world at large
I also have a podcast I am planning on launching in late 2021 called My Dear Uncle Bozie, which is a collection of stories my dad told on the radio from his adventurous life, 30 years ago. It’s raw and human and a beautiful time capsule of the world then. Look for it in December wherever you find your podcasts.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Gosh, this is a great question. Well, I think I’d take my best friend to drinks at The Green Russell speakeasy in Larimer Square, grab some mac & cheese pizza from Ians next to Coor’s field and then take her blues dancing at the Mercury Cafe at 22 & California.
While she’s here I’d take her for the best thai noodle dish ever (Prick Pow) at Star Thai (Or Star Thai 2 Jay’s Noodles). We’d hit up some thrift shops and probably picnic in Cheeseman Park.
I’d hope to take her to Tarascos off of federal for some delicious enchiladas and a juice from their incredible juice bar. We would definitely hit up Rise and Shine Biscuits and probably stop at Joyride Brewery before taking a walk around Sloan’s Lake
If it was rainy at all we might opt for the best veggie pho at Pho Duy off of Federal & Kentucky and a cuddled up evening at home, playing hide and seek with the baby and talking about our next artistic projects.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First of all, I just have to say my husband Benjamin. The support, space and deep kindness he has brought into my life has made invisible things possible. Since the beginning I have been delving deeply into my work, but I feel this sense of fearlessness since he has been beside me.
I feel so grateful to have a vibrant community of inspiration and support, including my folks. As far as artistic collaborators, I have had the immense privilege of growing up with two of my most favorite artists and supportive team members.
My brother, Logan Woods-Darby and my best friend (since birth!) Anateya Cranson.
We started out making short films together, and that grew into writing and music, re-formatting stories, and sound-boarding our ideas on each other.
I feel really amazed that we stumbled into creating this kind of “yes town” soul space for one another. Which honestly is the most valuable thing. To have a space to bring new, vulnerable, baby ideas to, and know that your idea is being seen with all of this love and understanding of who you are, is uniquely powerful.
They are each brilliant artistic outliers.
My brother Logan is currently writing a book on the everyday spiritual human experience and how to cultivate a juicy and wild life. He is also a filmmaker, musician, illustrator and actor. And also, depending on time of publication, a brand new father. Find him at @masterwisefool
Anateya, or as we call her, Teya, is an exceptional filmmaker and photographer. She has spent the last six years traveling the world with another female filmmaker, Sadie Such, interviewing strangers and specialists alike, on the topic of marriage and relationships. Which, has brought them back to the fundamental questions at the core of any relationship: those deep questions for yourself.
They’re in the midst of getting distribution for the first season of their docuseries titled Where We Belong. It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking and I highly recommend you watch it if you even have the slightest chance to.
Find her at @anateyarosemedia and @wherewebelongdoc
Honestly, I believe that our community and the artistic support system is the life blood of good art and healthy artists and a blooming society. Especially after surviving this past pandemic year and looking forward into the rather unknown future.
Speaking of support, I have to mention two artists in New York City.
Heidi David, who is a phenomenal writer, and an artistic force to be reckoned with. For the past three years we have touched base every Monday morning as a way to keep our artistic fires alive and supported. She has been one of the most persistent voices of support for my writing, which has been absurdly valuable. Find her on instagram at @heidisdavid
Also Katherine McClintic who is based in the dance and choreography world in NYC and who is also working on a book of poetry. We’ve created a support network for our books between us and it’s been amazingly valuable. Find her on Instagram at: @kgmcclintock
I was raised in a world where artists, much like how we were taught about women, are always in competition with each other. But the older I get and the more experience I have, I really do not buy it.
It’s up to us to lift up the art and artists around us. Not just the salable pieces but the souls of the humans within it too.
That’s how we keep each other and the vital art of the world, alive and hopefully, thriving.
Pictures by Anateya Cranson and Elizabeth Woods-Darby