Plants and animals have always been the surface on which humans have etched the foundations of culture, sustenance, and identity. For myself, natural forms are a continual source of fascination and deep aesthetic pleasure. At first glance my work explores the more modern prosaic concept of nature: a source of serene nostalgia balanced with the more visceral experience of 'wildness' as remarkably alien and indifferent. Upon closer inspection of each 'creature' the viewer may discover a frieze on which themes as familiar as domestication and as abrasive as domination fall into sharp relief. These qualities are not only present in the final work but are fleshed out in the process of building. Each sculpture is constructed using an additive technique, layered from inside to out by an accumulation of innumerable tiny components. Many of these components are microcosmic representations of plants, animals and objects. Some are beautiful, some are grotesque and some are fantastical. The singularity of each sculpture is the sum total of its small narrative structures.
Over time I find my sculptures are evolving to be of greater emotional presence by using less physical substance: I subtract more and more to increase the negative space. The element of weight, which has always seemed so fundamentally tied to the medium of sculpture, is stripped away and the laws of gravity are no longer in full effect. In reading the stories contained in each piece we are forced to acknowledge their emotional gravity cloaked as it is in the light, the feminine, the fragile, and the unknowable.
Counter intuitively, while there is an appearance of complexity in design, there is a simplicity in execution. Each detail, down to the finest filigree, is free-modeled by hand. Within each piece precision is balanced by chaos. The overarching aesthetic knocks on the door of realism, yet the hand of the artist is never intentionally erased; brush strokes and fingerprints abound. Even the narratives themselves harbor a degree of anarchy as they are rarely formally structured. Rather, I seek to achieve flow states while working to create a fluid progression of unconscious imagery. That imagery, as manifest in tiny ephemeral shapes and beings, forms relationships and dialogues organically. In the spirit of surrealism, this psychological approach to artistic expression creates a rich network of personal archetypes and motifs that appear to occupy their own otherworldly space. Within this ethereal menagerie, anthrozoology meets psychoanalysis as themes of natural beauty, curiosity, colonialism, domestication, death, growth, visibility and wildness are explored.
While I seek to free my mind to the imaginative process, I am always simultaneously striving to refine my working environment. I abstain from all materials; clay, paints, glazes, finishes and mediums, that have known toxic properties. This, unavoidably, excludes most of what is commonly commercially available, and has sent me on a journey of unique material combination and invention. This exploration is a large part of the unconventional look and feel of my work. Where possible I source the natural, the local, the low impact and, always, the authentic.
Ellen was born in Markham Ontario Canada and took to shaping three dimensional forms naturally at a young age. In 2007 Ellen completed her post secondary honours degree in Anthropology and Fine Art at McMaster University. While finishing her undergraduate degrees Ellen worked in medical illustration, exotic animal care and was teaching a childrens class on stop motion animation. By the time she presented her thesis, Ellen's academic and artistic interests in the biological where intrinsically interwoven.
Considered by those who know her as a natural entrepreneur, Ellen set out on her own path as a career artist while still in high school, spending long summer weekends travelling to exhibitions. Ever the curious soul, while working as an artist Ellen has continued to study art and science respectively, most recently, through Haliburton School of the Arts and University of Guelph. She has also accumulated certifications in other areas of personal intrigue, including applied animal behavior modification and crisis counseling. According to Ellen, it all informs her art; enriching the content of the unconscious narrative flow.
Today Ellen's work is achieving a vibrant internet presence making notable appearances on popular websites including Colossal, Reddit, Bored Panda, Ecology Global Network, American Crafters and many others. Her sculptures are being featured in public and private collections worldwide. Ellen is enthusiastically expanding her studio practice and forever striving to experiment and meet the demand for her time and work.
In addition to her life as a professional artist Ellen operates a small scale animal refuge with the help of her partner on their Vancouver Island farm. Everyday offers no shortage of inspiration. In her spare seconds Ellen enjoys hiking and exploring, travelling, kayaking, hunting wild plants and mushrooms, implementing permaculture principles, 'upcycling' salvaged items, drinking coffee and feeding tiny birds. As her practice gains more international audience she looks forward to the opportunity to travel more and explore meaningful new projects.
2013 - Present University of Guelph, Equine Science, Horticulture Science
2008 - 2015 Halliburton School of the Arts and Fleming College (various courses)
2011 Women in Crisis Guelph, Crisis Councillor Certification
2011 Apprenticeship in Canine Behavior and Aggression Therapy
2007 McMaster University, Honors Fine Art and Anthropology
Publications, Television and Features
Where Women Create, in process
Tessa Valk, “Animals and The Environment as One: Ellen Jewett”, Art by Nature p 10-13 edition 8
Christi Friesen, “Lovely Bones” The Polymer Arts, Spring 2017
Gillian McDowell, Ellen Jewett, Chicken and Egg Magazine
Ar-ti-Zen, "Ellen Jewett, natural history surrealist sculpture", 2018, Vol 6 Iss 3 p 26-35, cover
Hieu Nguyen, Ellen Jewett, Beautiful.Bizarre, 2016, Vol 014
"LA ESCULTORA ELLEN JEWETT" Amante Magazine Limited Sapphire Edition N_5, 2016
Salon Première Vision, Parc des Expositions of Paris Nord Villepinte. September 15-17th 2015
Young-hae Lee, "Ellen Jewett" Science Donga (korea), Spring 2015, p.34-41
Lasharna Turner, "Naturalism" StyleBiblio Spring 2015, Vol 2, p.37
Jeanette Melin, "Kom med til Krible Krable Land", Magasinet Kunst (The Art Magazine, Denmark), April 24th, 2015
Sekai Banzuke, The Nippon Television Network (Japan), Oct 31st, 2014
Harriet Levenston, "Ellen Jewett," HI-FRUCTOSE October 2014, Vol 33, p.30-33
Sculpture featured in "Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony", Laurent Malaquais, 2012
Cat McDonald, “Ellen Jewett,” On Spec , #87 Vol 23 no 4, p. 95-100, cover photo.
"Ellen Jewett," Handicraft Magazine (china) 2014, p.26-28
Exhibitions and Awards
2018 “On Wildness”, solo exhibition Ottawa School of Art, Ottawa, Canada
2018 "The Monster Project", group exhibition, Urban Nation Museum, Berlin, Germany
2018 "Nature Imagined", Wildling Museum of Art and Nature, Solvang, California
2017 "Animals A-Z", Wildling Museum of Art and Nature, Solvang, California
2016 "Hindsight", group exhibition, The Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, California
2016 "ArtZoo", group exhibition, The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
2016 "Wild", group exhibition, The Cornell Museum, Delray, Florida
2014 "Minuscule", group show, Flower Pepper Gallery, Pasadena, California
2013 "Futurology", group show, CoproGallery, Santa Monica, California
2010 Ad Astra Best in Show
2008 Ad Astra Best in Show
2007 "Anthropology is Promiscuous", group show, The New Space Gallery, Ontario Canada
2007 "Hands Down Balls Out", group exhibition, McMaster , Museum of Art, Ontario Canada
2007 "12th Annual Juried Graduating Sculpture Student Exhibition", Canada Sculpture Centre, Ontario Canada