One of my favorite ways to spend a morning is having coffee and conversation with other artists and creatives. Recently I had the great fortune of doing a photo shoot with the Chicago based artist, Ellen Greene. I was first introduced to Ellen through a mutual friend a few years ago and was blown away by her natural beauty and free spirit. She literally wears her art on her sleeve and I was intrigued with her paintings and process from the moment I met her. A perfect mix of feminine mystique and the dark side, Ellen’s work encourages me to think more about my own emotional experiences and their relationship to my personal work.
Ellen’s personal style and aesthetic is evident throughout her home and studio. From vintage jewels and collars to handmade dresses dipped in wax, Ellen’s knack for mixing the old with the new makes her work interesting and complex.
I am always inspired when I visit other artist’s spaces, as their personal process fascinates me. The collars are a sneak peek of what is yet to come as Ellen embarks on a new project.
Ellen truly has the unique ability to balance the bad ass with the feminine. I so wish I could do that.
To view more of her work or to buy a pair of wearable gloves, visit her site.
Ellen’s free spirit and zest for life often leads to collaborations with other artists. You can see Ellen’s latest work and collaboration with tattoo artist, Mario Desa, in For Your Eyes Only, at Sidetracked Studio in Evanston, IL. The opening is Saturday, July 25 6-9 pm. More information is available here.
Where did you grow up ?
I grew up in a small town called Lawrence KS. Its just about 30 miles west of Kansas City
When did you become interested in art ?
I was born an artist. My earliest memories are of drawing-its all I did. My mom has pages of
drawings I did at 1 year old. A series of small circles over and over. I’m sure I was pretending
that they were much more than circles but thats all I could do at that time. Going to art
museums were some of my earliest and fondest memories. I remember looking at paintings and
having such intense feelings and thinking about the person who made them and how they were
able to evoke emotions in me through time and space. I thought that was magic.
How do your Midwestern roots influence your art?
My town is a freaky little place where many folk art types and independent thinkers live. Its a
college town full of professors, frat boys, right wing christians, cowboys and hippies. Its
conservative and yet completely wild.
What is the hardest part about your art?
The hardest part of any art making practice is balance. To keep one foot in the space of
creativity and one foot in reality. The head space of art making requires a bit of insanity- I have
to loose touch with the real world a bit to channel the ideas I want to tap into. Its a slippery slope
to go to that place mentally, but its a gift if I can return to the “real” world and then share my
What is the best part about it?
I want my artwork to touch people. I want them to feel like they are not alone. I want to be for
someone else what other artists were for me. Someone that transmits complicated human
emotions and experiences into a visual language that hits us on a deep subconscious level. And
hopefully when people see what I make and relate to it, they are moved into a place of
acceptance or freedom from what they are going through.
Is there a project you’re most proud of?
My series “invisible mother’s milk” was a really deep hard series to do. It really dug into my
experiences with depression, mental illness, addiction, creativity and motherhood. It was both
the darkness and the light. I know it touched people and made difficult conversations around
mothering a little bit easier to those who were open to what I was experiencing.
Some of the things around your home allude to religious symbolism and iconography.. can you
tell me about that ?
I love religious iconography. I think it was those early years in art museums that developed my
love for that type of imagery, I was not raised in religion- the museums were my church. And
those images of jesus and mary were a language I understood. They talked about grace, mercy,
forgiveness, passion, love- so many intense human emotions in those paintings. So I can’t
collect early Northern renaissance paintings but I can collect folk art, and other found “oddities”
that speak the same spiritual language as the fine art. So my walls and many surfaces in my
house are a hodge podge of religious knick knacks.
Your painted gloves contain a bit of irony. What inspired you to blend tattoo like paintings with
such a lady like accessory ?
I love a mix of sacred and profane, the push and pull between the beautiful and grotesque is so
satisfying. Its how I feel as a woman- both lady like and at the same time crawling with snakes🙂
Your live and work in the same space, is it difficult to keep your personal and professional lives
separate? How do you adjust the rhythm together?
I don’t want any separation, I like being in the same place. That way I can always be making. Its
a small space and my studio is the dining room which is pretty focal to the whole layout. I see
my artwork when I wake up and see it before I go to bed. I have had many different studio
situations all with pros and cons. What is most important is that it is dedicated space, and that I
work consistently within it.
What inspires you spiritually ?
I love reading poems by Rumi and books on prayer and mystical devotion. I love myths and
anything that Joseph Campbell wrote.
My peers, other artist still making work. Its a fellowship of makers that keeps me going.
My children. I have to be emotionally inspired to be a better artist. If I didn’t have to struggle and
grow emotionally as a parent I would not be as good an artist as I am today.
How do you stay inspired ?
I am always searching, always looking and looking deeply at life. It can takes its toll all this
“seeking” and seeing and feeling but it the artists job in a functioning healthy society to be a bit
of a bringer of light. Its not always an appreciated job, or well paid job but its important on a very
human level. That keeps me going, knowing that it matters.
How I wear my artistry on my body.
Where I dream at night
On your mind right now…
Progress not perfection
You have yet to…
Find the next version of myself
Frida Khalo’s home and studio in mexico city. I want to go there SO badly.
PLACE: New Mexico
QUOTE: “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you
stumble, there lies your treasure” -Joseph Campbell