A brush with… Ellen Gallagher

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Biography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2022-03-29 20:00Z by Steven

A brush with… Ellen Gallagher

The Week in Art

Ellen Gallagher in her Rotterdam studio Photo: Philippe Vogelenzang Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

An in-depth conversation on the artist’s big influences, from Keith Haring to Moby Dick

In this episode of A brush with…, Ben Luke talks to the American artist Ellen Gallagher about her life and work by exploring her greatest cultural influences. Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1965, Gallagher studied at Oberlin College in Ohio, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She now lives in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Much of Gallagher’s parents’ ancestry—in particular her Black father who is from the Cape Verde archipelago off the west coast of Africa—defines the territory of her practice, which relates to the culture and language of the Black diaspora.

Though primarily working in painting and drawing, Gallagher has also worked in sculpture, film and animation. Her early style appears Minimalist and spare from a distance but, up close, one observes intricate drawings of eyes, lips and wigs, which Gallagher has described as “the disembodied ephemera of minstrelsy”—the racist blackface entertainment common in the US from the C19th onwards. In the early 2000s, she used cut-out advertisements from Black culture magazines and transformed them with plasticine, making sculptural reliefs that were often imprinted with witty or incisive symbols and imagery. Many of her paintings refer to the sea and allude to the Afrofuturist myth of Drexciya: a Black Atlantis at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, supposedly populated with the children of the mothers of enslaved African women who were thrown—or threw themselves—overboard during their forced journey across the Middle Passage

Read and/or listen to the interview here.

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