Figurative sculpture demonstrates the age old desire to observe and record the human image as a method of communication. For me this tradition is a continual challenge and inspiration, combining the quest for beautiful form with the rigor of believability in anatomy and gesture. Concept rests in eons of large and small stories told, each with vast potential to evoke common experience. In my work, I appreciate this narrative and try to convey it through transformational subjects, invoking relationship, or by injecting humor. Context is also important to me, and can be built by employing supporting elements, grouping figures, or delving into mythic themes.
Experimenting with kinetic work is a new exploration recently, and commissions are also a significant part of my current sculpture. I’ve discovered that the commission process creates a great framework for teasing out the essence of a project. Designing a worthwhile sculpture that defines the often big questions of these perimeters has proven to be a great game in problem solving, one that I have come to enjoy very much. And so, over the years I’ve been excited to find that a harmonious blend of design, form making, and a hint of the mysterious can provide elusive but tantalizing possibilities for figurative sculptors such as myself. There is a dare and a voyage every time, storms too!
When I began this work, it was with ceramic clay. Eventually, I came to appreciate the strength and weightless effect achieved with metal and currently cast most sculpture in bronze. I start a piece with a concept drawing, eventually hiring a model or using photographs for reference. Small sculpture is built directly in oil clay or plastiline over a wire armature. Large work requires a small placement or gesture model to establish the design. I frequently enlarge this model, also known as a maquette, to an intermediate scale if the final piece will be life-sized or over.
This final maquette is enlarged again, often with new foam scale-up technology, providing an accurate core which is easily manipulated and detailed with a plastiline overlay to produce the finished original. As such, I find myself building a large piece three times before the clay work is done. To complete the sculpture, piece molds, waxes, welding, metal finishing, and patina are done as specified by the foundry… processes that require many more versions of making by skilled craftsmen there.
Ellen’s commissions with public access:
- “Coastal Safety Marker” – Smelt Sands State Park – Yachats, OR
- Serves to educate the public and commemorate two South Eugene High School students who lost their lives to a sneaker wave in 2011.
- “Continuum” – Eugene Police Headquarters – Springfield, OR
- Cut steel panel imagery combines with glasswork lanterns designed by Eugene artist, John Rose to welcome the public and police employees.
- “Opal Whitely” – Cottage Grove Library – OR
- Commemorates the renown Oregon naturalist and child author. A tribute to joy.
- “Slugfest” – The Oregon Garden in Silverton, OR
- A bronze and stainless cephalopod inspired drinking fountain – handicap accessible.
- “Journey” – Cottage Grove Community Hospital – OR
- Addresses hope and the individual struggle to find a pathway through illness or challenge.
- “Treasure” – George Fox University in Newberg, OR
- A family grouping illustrating trust, communication, and the framework of faith.
- “Luna” – University of Oregon – Eugene, OR
- An archetypal female figure that juxtaposes the beauty of the mysterious with acceptance of the burdens inherent in life.
- “Bridge from the East” – Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon
- The Gertrude Bass Warner Memorial commemorates her asian art collection which established the museum, and recognizes her efforts to foster cultural appreciation through the language of beautiful objects.
- “Moment of Decision” – The Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis, OR
- A monument for the Holcomb Youth Hero Award installed outside – joined figures illustrates the instants of choice that can either expand or diminish an individual life.
- “Fine Balance” – Riverbend Medical Center meadow – Eugene, OR
- A fanciful troop of stilt walkers that celebrates the equilibrium and interconnection of life and health. A loving look at the relationship between young and old and the animals that share our lives.
- “Day of Days” – Riverbend Medical Center – Eugene, OR
- A rocking horse and circus rider – this kinetic piece considers control and it’s juxtaposition with trust and relationship amid the complications and joy of life.