Note: the following is part of Glasstire’s series of short videos, Five-Minute Tours, for which commercial galleries, museums, nonprofits and artist-run spaces across the state of Texas send us video walk-throughs of their current exhibitions. This will continue while the coronavirus situation hinders public access to exhibitions. Let’s get your show in front of an audience.
Ellen Tanner: Fables & Families at Moody Gallery, Houston. Dates: July 13 – August 7, 2021.
Via the artist:
“From a very young age I curated collections of all things miniature and would spend hours entertaining myself by creating tiny worlds and scenes with these objects. I was drawn to old viewfinders and antique peep boxes that invited you to look closer, allowing a tiny, magical moment to spring to life in front of your eyes. I think these dual obsessions have stayed with me and play a big role in my identity as an artist. When these impulses dovetailed with my lifelong affinity for certain genres of storytelling, I got to work and taught myself to paint.
“Since setting out on that path, I have obsessively worked on refining my techniques and creative process, sometimes erasing entire days of work to eventually encounter sheer moments of delight when things finally turned out how I wanted them to go. For me, having the discipline to do the work and the obsession to get better, no matter how frustrating the day before might have been, is the most important part of becoming an artist. I was never the most talented in art class, but I had the drive to bang my head against the wall countless times and still be able to start over again the next day. Every once in a while, I wish that I would have applied my work ethic and ability to zoom in on three square inches for eight hours a day to something more useful in the world (neurosurgery?), but in the end, every road I tried to take led back to making small paintings in whatever small corner of space I could find.
“I have a very intimate relationship with every one of these paintings. Once I zero in on the story I want to tell and the moment I want to capture, I gather dozens of images that may possibly serve as inspiration for the characters, setting, and mood for the final piece. I weave parts and pieces from these images into a sort of collage in my mind and set to work bringing the narrative to life with three layers of meticulously applied paint. I work on each layer for months at a time, often up close and through various intensities of my magnification lenses, eight hours a day, five days a week. This process satisfies my lifelong compulsion to create small magical worlds with my own cast of characters, scenery and props. It gets tedious at times, of course, but there is absolutely no other way I would rather spend my days.”