pictured from left to right: “Bound,” and “Unbound,” by Ell Treese
This month we are excited to present the abstract, vibrant work of Ell Treese. Ell is a 21 year old artist born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, who is currently a junior studying Painting and Printmaking at VCUarts. Ell is a painter but branches out in to different media to explore material and form. Their work focuses on the complexities of gender identity using abstract expression as language and material metaphors. Their show, “NewArt,” is on view at Spring Street until April 30th, 2019.
We asked Ell a few questions about their artistic process, inspirations, and use of materials in their artworks.
Your show at Spring Street is called “NewArt.” What would you say are the “new” elements that define the works in the show?
My work is all about finding something new about yourself that you maybe had hidden away, or hadn’t paid attention to for a long time. Abstraction is a new expressive mode of painting, compared to realism and work of the old masters, as well as a new way of interpreting psyche and identity. I use these notions to kickstart my process of art making and thinking about how different forms, lines, and colors can interpret some complex ideas that are affecting many young queer people in this country.
What are your favorite materials to work with? In what ways do you think material and form can be used to explore the complex topics you engage with in your art?
My favorite material is most definitely paint. I guess I just have a soft spot for it because it’s the first material I ever worked with seriously and I’ve always found comfort and confidence in it. As far as other materials, I work with video and metal the most, but I tend to gravitate towards a painterly style no matter what material I use. I think material and form can be manipulated in countless ways to express gender identity! Gender is such a complex concept that cannot be easily defined which makes my job a lot more fun! I love the way color and composition of an abstract painting can connote a certain aspect of my gender identity without me spelling it out for you.
When did you start painting? Why did you choose choose to pursue art in an academic setting? What are your future plans in regards to art?
I started painting when I was in elementary school. I would take classes over the summer at a youth art gallery in Downtown Dayton called K-12 and up until 8th grade I never really considered pursuing it seriously. Once I figured out that I was my most content and fulfilled while painting, I knew that I needed to go to art school and pursue it as a career. I think art school is a necessary step for any serious artist to take because it opens you up to so many conceptual realms of thinking and communicating that aren’t always the easiest to find on your own. My future plans for after graduation in 2020 are to experience the art world first hand by doing artist residencies around the country and maybe even some abroad! I really believe that you have to experience life in order to paint about it. Eventually, I want to got to grad school for art therapy so I will be able to help others find themselves through art like I did.
Where are your favorite places to work?
My favorite place to paint currently is my house because I have a whole section of a room for all my materials and there is a big window right next to it so I can always see outside. My house is also always filled with the best energy and acts almost like a queer resource center. I’d say my absolute favorite place I’ve painted in overall is Berlin. I had a shared studio space with a bunch of amazing creatives and the energy of the room and the inspiration of the city helped me create some of my favorite work.
What are your hopes for the show?
My hopes for this show are that viewers can understand a little bit more about how gender is abstract and being transgender is one of the most beautiful/hard things. I want people to not necessarily understand where I’m coming from or to “get it”, but I want to at least get them to see the beauty under, over, and around the binary arch. I hope y’all can make it!
The reception for “NewArt” will be held on Friday, April 5th, from 6-8 pm. Come view this exhibition, speak with the artist, and enjoy refreshments with us!