Elaine Viel –written by Michelle Erhardt, Art Historian, Christopher Newport University
To Elaine Viel art and politics are intrinsically linked. Whether representing concern for the environment, equal rights for women, or the consequences of war, Viel’s art is poignant and thought provoking. Inspired by the work of the Guerilla Girls and Ai Weiwei, her art is an expression of her moral and political beliefs as well as a beacon to social problems and injustices.
A native of Houston, Texas she has lived a vibrant and colorful life, holding a number of diverse careers and living in far away and exotic locations, such as Nova Scotia, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Orleans, New Hampshire and southwest Virginia. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Elaine worked as reporter, editor & columnist for newspapers in New Mexico, Virginia, Texas and Louisiana, winning not only state press association awards but a national award from the National Association of Press Women.
Since the 1970s art has been an underlying theme in Viel’s life. In 2004, Viel graduated with a degree in Studio Art from CNU. A proud alumna, in 2006 she became the department’s full-time administrative coordinator and university’s first Falk Gallery Manager. In her tenure as manager, she oversaw the installation of over 100 exhibitions, gallery events, and artist’s talks. In the spring of 2015, Elaine retired from CNU after serving the university for twelve years.
As a visual artist Viel has exhibited her work both internationally and across the United States. Most recently, she has exhibited in Eastport, Maine; twice invited to exhibit in the New Artists Unit in Tokyo, Japan and was invited to create a piece of public sculpture for the Mariner’s Museum environmental impact show, Message in a Bottle (2009). Another of Viel’s sculpture is on permanent exhibition at the Charles H. Taylor Center in Hampton, Virginia.