Intersections and Detours
Elsi Vassdal Ellis
A Solo Exhibition
February 3 – March 10, 2012
Elsi Vassdal Ellis holds a very distinguished record here at 23 Sandy Gallery: she has been selected for every national juried book arts show we have produced since we opened the gallery five years ago. She also won the Gallery Choice Award for our Pop-Up Now show. We are thrilled to honor her with a solo show of her powerful, thought-provoking work in the field of artist books.
Vassdal Ellis feels her job as a book artist is really more that of an alchemist, someone who searches the ends of the earth for the necessary matter, subjects it to fire and ice and distillation, concentrating the experiences to serve as their voices and witnesses for current and future generations.
She tells us, “As alchemist I have mined blogs and reports, read books and articles, watched documentaries about soldiers and battlefields and air strikes, friendly fire, suicides, physically detached soldiers half a world away operating drones, the economic and psychological costs of war. There are moments I know I would be better off not focusing on such topics in my work. Mood swings, tears, a feeling of disgust, a fear of becoming a voyeur all haunt me but I tell myself someone must stand on the street corners on soapboxes, to bear witness to the current state of the world and human action. Right or wrong, good or bad, helpful or harmful, that someone is me.”
“There are moments that I panic and fear that there will never be enough time to accomplish all the books I have planned. This fear is tempered by the joyous, serendipitous discoveries that are made along the way as spontaneous books emerge as by-products of the alchemical process of life.”
Some of Vassdal Ellis’ books reflect a spiritual journey through the study of myth; some reflect the compulsive study of language in its corporeal form (letters and type); some are the creation of new biographies and stories by recycling found materials with new text; others are spontaneous products of a curiosity of form or reactions to events; some explore the intersection of religion and politics; some attempt to seduce the reader into looking deeply into the dark bottomless abyss of human behavior. Regardless of the motivating force behind the making of a book, it is the intimacy, the sensuality of the form and the materials, the control over sequencing, the telling of stories that feeds her creative process.
Elsi Vassdal Ellis teaches design production and book arts at Western Washington University. She established EVE Press in 1983 with her first offset edition; letterpress in 1990; and digital in 1996. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is housed in many public and private collections. Since 1983 she has produced over 95 editions and 120 unique books employing a variety of reproduction techniques and materials. Her work is permanently housed in many public collections including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, New York City Public Library, Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Grabhorn Collection in the San Francisco Public Library, and Arts of the Book Collection in the Yale University Library.
All images © Elsi Vassdal Ellis