Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9. my presentation

So I sat down to think about this presentation and how I would start it and while I was thinking about it I started a little blog post about getting ready for this residency that, as many do, devolved into what is blooming in my yard

which meant that to illustrate it I had to take a wander for pictures 

and some of the pictures I had to wait for while the breeze gave me an opportunity and while waiting I noticed the baby anoles that are hatching now 

and how tired all the foliage is starting to look 

and I was listening to the hot summer noises of the cicadas 

and birds and looking into the summer blue sky with the white puffy clouds 

and...where was I?

Oh yeah, trying to figure out what to write and say about me and what pictures to choose to illustrate who I am and where I come from and how it relates to my work.

I think my attempt at starting has pretty much illustrated that.

As far as my career as a functioning artist and my involvement in glass goes, I began my little studio about 38 years ago doing etched glass commissions for architectural installations and in the mid 80s played with fused and cast glass abandoning fusing for casting and later in the mid 90s, I started working in the technique of pate de verre specifically.

We, my husband/partner and I, still do the commission work and it is, in fact, how we make our living.

The commission work 

differs from the 'gallery' work in that the art for the commission work is rooted in the requirements of the job and desires of the buyer. While I will prepare sketches based on a design consultation, they will decide which one gets done. 

And while I tend to fall into favorite subject matter that I don't have to think about too much, the commission work will challenge me now and then to offer an idea that I then have to figure out how to do. 

But, that's just technique mostly.

It's hard for me to say what inspires me in my personal work, the cast glass pieces. My imagery in both endeavors is deeply rooted in nature and I have always strived to remain connected to and to protect and encourage the natural world. I must have windows in my work space that I can gaze out of. 

And outside those windows, I plant things that flower and I add features that attract birds and butterflies and insects and frogs and snakes too. And while my environment is rich, I'm afraid my content is often shallow.

Mostly the early pieces are just trying to be pretty. We were learning how to do what I wanted and also what we could and could not expect to happen. 

My first three dimensional form was a small bowl and they were based on the colors and patterns of the of the earth, flowers, and sky.

In my more recent work, the peach box that is currently under construction 

is simply an ode to the peach because I like peaches. Other work, 

like the Reliquary For A Night Sky, is a lament, this one over light pollution. I guess that pretty much sums up all the boxes, Odes or Laments. These are stories, because each one has a story that goes with it, even the Odes, like 

The Book Of Wren, which is about the spring that wrens built a nest in the garage.

Backing up a little bit, at some point, as the work became more sculptural and the form changed from bowl 

to cup 

to vase 

to small sculpture 

to box, 

the pieces started developing stories and so that's what I've come to think about my work in general, that these are stories. Sometimes they were intentional and other times the story just evolved.

I wrangled a one person show from my local gallery one year and tried to do some 'serious' work. The theme of the work was the loss of an old inner city neighborhood, mine, through gentrification. It didn't go over too well, but I did try some forms that were not vessels.

Up until then all the work was all different forms of the vessel.

I'm leaving the vessel form behind for now and though I'm not through with the boxes yet, I don't really consider them a vessel, not in the traditional sense.

The pieces I'm currently working on that I loosely refer to as 'botanica erotica' are focused on the reproductive parts of flowers or the suggestive nature of the way petals unfold. 

I like the erotic nature of nature, the biological imperative to reproduce; the way plants just 'do it in the road'

to quote John Lennon while our culture cloaks it in taboo and repression. I guess you could call them flower porn.

Only one story here.

I'm already thinking about the next series I want to do after the botanicas which will be a collection of stories, or memories, based on my river days and I want to move more in the direction of including other multi-media components in this work like I did with the wren box which has a bronze component and includes a handmade scroll.

Other than that, I really don't think too deeply about my work or from whence it is derived. There is no great symbolism involved and the only agonizing I do is in that period between image in my head and finished model when I think I'll never get from one to the other. I've never thought that there was any underlying unity in my work beyond being nature oriented, an extension of my deep belief that we are only one part of an integrated whole, a part of nature rather than being apart from nature.

Finally, when I first started writing this, I wrote down three things that came to mind that I have learned from different people but that I haven't been able to work into the dialog. I've learned many things, of course, but these are the three that surfaced so these are the ones I am going to leave you with.

The thing I learned from my drawing teacher was to look for the details.

The thing I learned from Spider Woman of the Navaho pantheon is that balance in your life is essential.

And the thing I learned from my friend Gene is perseverance. If you want to do something, you don't give up.


  1. this is really cool, ellen. i've seen some of these pieces in your posts, but it is really nice to see a bunch all together and hear a bit of your progression. :)

  2. Your work, no, not work- art- is truly incredible. I love that your mind doesn't get too much in the way when you are creating. And of course I love your flower porn. Just... all of this.
    Love it.

  3. Have you ever before rolled out your work like a scroll? A tapestry? Is this how you made your presentation? I hope so; it is exciting to see.

  4. GASP!!! OMFG! I am in rapture with your photos and your WORK! Gobsmacked! Astonished! all of those things- Really ellen, don't you just adore yourself! You better! I certainly do.

  5. That was a lot more coherent than anything I can come up with my work.

    I don't go through that agony from vision to object, or rarely. Usually, for me, it's effortless and precisely what I saw in my head. Maybe that's my problem.

    Although, that's only for rendering objects. Coloring these darn glass castings is giving me a devil of a time.

  6. Well they had to be impressed after that!

  7. First, I must mention that the foliage around here is also starting to look tired too. Now...WoW!!! your work is amazing. Love it!!! You are an incredible artist! I'm so glad you let us see a collection of your pieces...very impressive. I can't imagine doing commission pieces. Having to create, and please is very difficult. Hurraaaah! for you and your art!

  8. It's pretty impressive that you are able to work within your form until you get more or less exactly what you want. I'm not sure I'd have the patience for that.

    Nature is certainly the unifying factor, isn't it? Also, I disagree with your assessment that it's not symbolic -- there's a lot of symbolism, from the Night Sky box to the flower porn. It represents something beyond what it appears to be on the surface.

    Love the cicada photo, and the glass window featuring the big etched tree.

  9. Oh I loved this...thank you for sharing the process of development of your work!!! You pieces are so fabulous...colorful and textural. Loved the undulating surfaces. So exotic and enticing to discover more.
    Loved it all

  10. Wow. What a talent you are, Ellen! I LOVE your stuff.


  11. Your presentation on your art is amazing and it also is a commentary on the person that Ellen is. I love how you wove all the parts into a whole. Most folks don't have the where with all to "present" themselves. Wow, this was very impressive.
    And I most especially love your progression in the visual part of the presentation....the growth of your spirit in the glass. Superb.
    Oma Linda

  12. Lovely commentary on the development of an artist. I really love reading your writing anyway, but the retrospection (and introspection) in this is great.

  13. You do SUCH beautiful work. Each one is stunning.

  14. I am in awe. You had me at the pictures.

    Your photographs are gorgeous, and your art is stunning. I'm so glad you gave us a peek inside your creative process, and I'm a little envious that you have such an amazingly creative and beautiful outlet for processing and sharing all the things you see.

    Thank you. This post was as good as a trip to the art museum.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.