Part of our Corona Exhibition, Ellen Jantzen’s image After Hours leads us into the light, reframing the daily narrative of a virus that has consumed our lives. The Griffin showcased Ellen’s work, Disturbing the Spirits in the spring of 2017. Here we are three years later, looking again to Jantzen’s work to lift us into the light. We followed up with her to talk about how light affects her work, and how she gets through this unique time in our lives.
How does light play in your work?
I grew up in the Midwest but moved to California in 1990 where I live for most of my adult life. When I returned to Missouri to help aging parents my attachment to the healing powers of the natural environment grew as I became familiarized, once again, with the seasons. Light is quite an indicator of seasonal changes and bringing light into my work heightened this. “After Hours” was created in the early autumn. I was struck by how the low angle of the sun shown through the trees. After my parents passed and I moved back west, (this time alighting in New Mexico) once again light took over my sensibilities but this time as a reflection of the vast sky and sun drenched landscape of New Mexico.
There is so much movement in your work. Not only are you working with shapes and texture, but adding motion through time and space. Light seems to be the pathway through all your work. How did this way of seeing come about?
I believe that the way I work influences my “seeing” in a direct way. I capture my images using a digital camera but the pieces don’t actually form and come to life until I upload my images to my computer and begin the creative process. As the computer screen is lit from behind, I take advantage of this in my work.
I believe the movement in my work started during the 5 years I was back in the Mid West. It started with my mother-in-law who was slipping into Alzheimer’s. I was documenting the feeling of loss that she and my husband were experiencing. In essence I was striving to show her disappearance. Shortly after, my parents began a decline and once again I was using motion and shapes to obscure a portion of an image through a veil of sorts. I was striving to heighten the remaining reality through discovery and reflection.
Do you start with a sketch or preconceived idea? Or does the process flow organically? How do you know when you have the right combination?
I don’t start with a sketch or a preconceived idea….. the ideas form organically. I normally start with a kernel of an idea… then start shooting. I take my photos and pick the strongest that support my idea and start manipulating, combining, etc until something gels. I then have a much stronger direction and I start shooting with more intention. I know I have the right combination when I feel a rush of adrenaline as I am working.
In this time of Corona, how do you find light in your day?
Luckily I am sequestered in New Mexico with my husband, Michael. The light is self evident here and buoys my spirits.
What is next for you creatively? What are you working on?
I am continuing to work on my “Mid+West” series.
(A visual essay on adaptation and acceptance in relocation/immigration and migration)
Some say we are all immigrants but many indigenous people have lived in one location for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. In this series I am addressing the more recent acts of relocation.
The place of one’s birth greatly influences who they are but through moving, new foods, cultures, languages and landscapes await to reshape their very being.
I was born in the Midwest, but now reside in New Mexico. Even though I didn’t really encounter a great deal of differences in people there were subtle language differences, definitely food differences and some culture shifts that required adjustment on my part. The most profound change for me was the landscape.
Here I am blending photos from my years in the Midwest (mainly rural Missouri and Illinois) with current photos I’ve taken while living in New Mexico.
I feel that one’s landscape, whether rural, suburban or urban, can utterly reshape them and how through relocation they grow and flourish. They become, in essence, a blending of all former homelands with the present.
Photographs were once considered to be “truthful”, but we now know there has been photo tampering going on since its inception. Because photos are “believed” there is a great deal of room to play within photography’s reality to create a personal fiction (a visual poetry) that is more open to interpretation.
This is the very reason I was drawn to photography ten years ago as a creative medium.
Photography, especially digitally aided photo collage/montage, is a potent medium
through which I am able to communicate the ways I see and understand the world most effectively.
About Ellen Jantzen –
Ellen Jantzen was born and raised in St. Louis Missouri. Her early college years were spent obtaining a degree in graphic arts; later emphasizing fine art.
Ellen spent two years at FIDM (the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in downtown Los Angeles. Here, she obtained her advanced degree in 1992. After a few years working in the industry, including several years at Mattel Toy Company as a senior project designer, she became disillusioned with the corporate world and longed for a more creative outlet. Having been trained in computer design while at Mattel, Ellen continued her training on her own using mostly Photoshop software.
As digital technology advanced and the newer cameras were producing excellent resolution, Ellen found her perfect medium. It was a true confluence of technical advancements and creative desire that culminated in her current explorations in photo inspired art using both a camera to capture staged assemblages and a computer to alter and manipulate the pieces. Ellen has been creating works that bridge the world of prints, photography and collage.
To see more of Ellen Jantzen‘s work visit her website.