EDIE ELLIS-BROWN

[1][2] [3]

(1) "Figure", driftwood and wood screws, 24 x 7 x 6", 1995.
(2) "Horse Box", clay, 8 x 5 x 3"; "Rider on Clyinder", clay, 11 x 3 1/2"; "Cowboy Cup", clay, 6 1/2 x 5 x 4", all 1995.
(3) "Drawing & Painting" books, ink & watercolor on paper, 6 x 6", 1994-95.

by Elenore Welles

(Orlando Gallery, San Fernando Valley) Baudelaire spoke of "correspondences," which refers to the association between objects and universal shapes, such as the association between natural forms and human figures. Shapes and forms go through transformations, either through natural processes like erosion, or through artistic manipulation. By searching out and working with the inherent mistique of natural materials, Edie Ellis-Brown connects to correspondences of forms. Consequently, her works are intimately involved with the transformative process.

Ellis-Brown has long been known for her art books, which include poetic musings as well as the incorporation of objects. Within the context of her art, all objects, whether man-made or those found in nature, take on equal status and importance. Many of her books assumed sculptural configurations such as lifesized portraits and disjointed body parts. In her latest exhibit, Sticks & Clay & Books, Ellis-Brown explores the possibilities natural forms may present, appreciating how materials have a spirit and a life of their own. She scours Southland beaches gathering shells, stones and driftwood, as if searching for the inherent animus in natural forms.

Designs and forms created through natural processes, such as twisted and gnarled driftwood, take on peculiar properties and characterizations that lend themselves to suggestive images. Varying in shades of ash gray and brown, Ellis-Brown has imposed her own sense of order on these fanciful wood pieces, transforming them into whimsical figures and animals. Ranging in size from 16 to 24 inches, these disjointed and gestural figures dangle like creatures from a comic puppet show. Their otherworldly appearance evokes totemic fetish images, a sensibility she also applies to a series of small stone and clay sculptures.

The evocative power of stone goes back to ancient mystic beliefs. The most basic of materials, predating metal and plastic, modern artists such as Brancusi, Henry Moore, and Isamu Noguchi understood that power and drew much of their inspiration from natural sources. Following in that tradition Ellis-Brown often derives inspiration from images that small stones and twigs may convey, but once again she reorganizes nature into visions of her own creation. The addition of clay parts to transform the images suggested by objects result in a collection of unique creatures, both pastoral and human. A pair of arms added to a stone that resembles an ancient goddess figure, for example, gives her the appearance of reaching out through the centuries. Once again, Ellis-Brown's sense of whimsy has come into play and the sculptures evoke an aura of ingenuousness that belie their formal considerations.

Rocks, shells and driftwood are also untilized as frontpieces for a new series of books. The drawings within the books continue to celebrate the intricacies of natural forms. Rocks, geodes, amoebas, plant forms and bark are either composed directly from na-ture or from biology books. Using different types of paper with a selection of inks, gouache and prismacolor pencils that bleed, natural forms and designs are drawn from a variety of vantage points. Consequently, viewers are able to see nature in new and distinctive ways. Included also are abstract drawings derived from an interest in African and North American Indian symbols. As in the past Ellis-Brown adds haiku-like meditations that include personal observations on nature and everyday realities.

Showing concurrently are Lynne Westmore's wood, clay and paper sculptures. In an exhibit titled Venice, Florence, and Other Personal Journeys Westmore's visions are influenced by art seen during a trip to Italy. Like Ellis-Brown, she utilizes materials such as driftwood and clay. But she evokes a darker, more intense imagery. Mary, The Annunciation, for instance, is influenced by religious paintings. Constructed of paper, cloth and clay on a wood framework, the piece evokes a Mary who is unreconciled to her fate. In The Ninth Circle, horrified faces writhing on twisted driftwood conjure up visions of Dante's Inferno.