Ellen Greene was born in 1975 and raised in the small college town of Lawrence, Kansas. She credits the eclectic characters and ghosts of her hometown as her first inspirations. A lively bunch of intellectuals, hippies, punks, evangelical christians, frat boys and farmers all living on native American prairie land drenched in blood by the famous civil war massacre of Quantrill’s raid. The town was buzzing with youthful energy and cultural agitation.
There was a renegade style to her home life as well. Her father’s blues bands practiced in the basement and her mother – a classical trained ballet dancer turned hairstylist – was always sewing clothes and collecting beautiful objects for the home. Ellen’s earliest impulses to be an artist were always supported and championed.
After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute with a degree in painting she embarked for a larger pond Chicago where she now runs her art studio. Her work is still infused with the same hodge lodge low fi aesthetic instilled in her childhood; a quirky Americana aesthetic born out of contrasts, grown up in the midwest. DIY, folk art punk and tattoo motifs can be seen in her paintings and multimedia work. She is mostly known for her painted vintage gloves with feminist body/sex positive tattoo motifs. Imagery associated with her experiences with birth and motherhood also feature heavily in her work.
Her artwork has been shown extensively in solo and group exhibitions throughout the Midwest, United States and abroad.
Thoughts on process
I work first and foremost intuitively. I like to approach the imagery and materials I use from this internal dialog that arises to a level of compulsion that creates the art. Its like a nagging or longing or obsessive loop that says “make this” and I can’t feel settled until its made. It doesn’t arrive from any sort of intellectual or technical training. It can come in dreams or waking visions that just pop into my mind. Even though I went to art school I often identify as a folk artist or even as an outsider. And I know that it is a privilege place to be able to go to school and then say: “I’m outside of the system” but I am very rebellious by nature and refused anything that school was trying to teach me. I wasn’t buying contemporary theory or buying into any -ism. I wanted to look at art made by people in insane asylums, tattoo and folk art traditions. I liked the unrefined self taught aesthetic of punk music. I liked DIY fashion. I wanted to connect to others that were giving the middle finger to convention.
Its like a nagging or longing or obsessive loop that says “make this”
So this intuitive impulse changes overtime. That initial youthful middle finger to convention has turned to a more thoughtful middle aged middle finger to convention. My thoughts and body change over time. I am interested in mapping that.
Right now I am at the end of rearing young children. My oldest is 16 and starting to assert her independence, her leaving home is a close reality. So my current work has to do with looking back at domesticity and motherhood through my surreal, unconventional lens. I am looking at the emotions that surround family- the domestic drama I like to call it. How can I represent that? What do I see when I look back at the photos of the family that I could not see when I was inside the experience? What larger truth can I draw out? How can I be more honest? And based on what I am looking to represent I may make a painting, or I may pick up an embroidery needle or write a poem. I have to trust myself unconditionally and that is the real work.
You can see more of Ellen Greene’s work at her website.