Ellen Jantzen: Mid+West (Dreaming)
Projects featured this week were selected from our most recent call-for-submissions. I was able to interview each of these artists to gain further insight into the bodies of work they shared. Today, we are looking at the series Mid+West (Dreaming) by 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. Ellen is currently represented by Susan Spiritus of the Susan Spiritus Gallery, Bruno David of the Bruno David Gallery, and Edition One Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.
(A visual essay on adaptation and acceptance in relocation/immigration and migration)
The place of one’s birth greatly influences who they are but through moving, new landscapes await to reshape their very being. Here I am blending photos from my years in the Midwest (Missouri and Illinois) with current photos I’ve taken while living in New Mexico. During these times of COVID- 19, travel is restricted so this gives me the opportunity of revisiting past photo shoots and creating new combinations, new work.
The landscape looks as if it were moving as though one was quickly driving past, but the clouds seem heavy and still. There is so much of life racing past us these days while our heads are in the clouds. Are we moving or remaining still as abstract land meets the real sky? We are reshaped by our circumstances. We become, in essence, a blending of all former homelands with the present.
Daniel George: What prompted your interest in using photography to create these depictions of landscape?
Ellen Jantzen: 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.
DG: Besides Covid related travel restrictions, was there something else pulling you to revisit photos that were made on prior occasions?
EJ: My fairly recent time in the Midwest… mainly Missouri and Illinois was highly emotional as we moved there to help aging parents; mine near St. Louis MO. and my husband’s in Southern Illinois where he grew up. As all parents have now passed on and we have moved back west the body of photos taken over the 6 years there hold a lot of memories and meaning.
DG: Tell us more about your process. How do you determine which images to blend, and why?
EJ: 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. I strive to blend images that tell a story; one that I hope resonates with viewers. My objective is that each viewer brings their own interpretation to my works.
DG: When I consider the “dreaming” aspect of these images, my mind tends to go toward the aspirational, or perhaps the idealized. How do you frame this particular component?
EJ: About 10 years ago I created a series titled “Point & Shoot @70 MPH”. I was struck by the blurring that occurred close up but the distance was in focus. This dichotomy has stayed with me and I wanted to recreate that through imagination. I know that dreaming can mean idealized or aspirational thinking, but I use it here more as in the realm of “imagined”. Although not considered originally, the Aboriginal “Dreamtime” manifested in the natural world seems to have influenced me.
DG: In what ways do you feel your upbringing in the Midwest informed your approach to photographing the landscape? In your statement you mention homelands, so I wonder what lasting impact Missouri and Illinois have had on your sensibilities.
EJ: Missouri and Illinois are truly my homelands as I grew up in St. Louis, MO. and went to college in Southern Illinois. I met my husband, Michael, there and we built a home in rural Illinois. So all early years were steeped in this verdant landscape. Early in the 1990’s we moved to Southern California and it took quite awhile to adjust to the environment…. essentially it seemed a desert to me but after 20 years there I came to love the outlying landscapes of mountains and rangelands. This is where my photography began. I was devastated to leave!! But, the move back to help parents was very rewarding and I reconnected with the landscape of four seasons. I took the opportunity of photographing around my parents 5 acres in all seasons and delight in seeing so many familiar vantage points from different seasons and different years. When all parents passed away, we headed back west, this time alighting in Santa Fe NM. It was wonderful to see mountains once more, but at the same time I do miss the verdant Midwest… So, combining the two is my solution.
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