Wendy Ellertson was born in San Francisco, CA and grew up in the Bay Area, Chicago, and Cleveland.  She holds degrees from Stanford University, Boston College, and studied at the Cleveland Art Institute. She has been an active member of the fine craft community for over forty-five years, dancing around and through many media categories always accompanied by her figures which incorporate leather, clay, wood and a deliciously eclectic array of contemporary and ancient materials, techniques and dreams. She exhibits her work across the U.S. via major craft shows, galleries, and museum shows.  As a member of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, she enthusiastically supports border crossing work and storytelling in all its varied forms.

Her studio and home are in Roxbury, MA – where in 1967 she and her husband, Jon, both Westerners at heart, bought two c.1840 houses needing major work (sort of a 1 cent sale in the Boston neighborhood where houses were being abandoned) intending to stay just a few years. They raised four children and occasionally some chickens and rabbits. To their surprise, they now find themselves community elders with history, memory, stories, and spring tomato plants to share. (They are still re-habing their houses in their “spare” time.) Wendy is a strong supporter of the local ArtRox community and is artist in residence at her neighborhood Hawthorne Youth and Community Center where she works with both children and adults.

The Winter '07-'08 issue of Art Doll Quarterly contains an 8 page "doll artist profile" on Wendy, her work, techniques  and philosophy. (See pdf of article attached here.)

 

Personal Statement:

Each of us sees life through our own web of experience, passions and inclinations. As artists we aim to make sense of the world through story, practice, and our hands.   The following experiences have contributed to the evolution of my work and to my deep connection to myth, storytelling, and flight.

  • A childhood surrounded by a wild and eclectic collection of modern, primitive, and folk art; early introduction to incredible museums in Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and New York; childhood friendships with gallery owners in Chicago; a good dose of Dr. Seuss and Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories; a dad who was a great storyteller; and parents who always encouraged us to stretch our imaginations.
  • A crucial first art trade at age 10 with painter Robert J. Lee - a painting for a few of my fantasy figures, beginning a mentor and friend relationship which continued for over 40 years.
  • Nine months in Europe during college, studying in France and traveling to Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and England. I developed a special attachment to gargoyles.
  • A wise grandfather and loving grandmother who lived into their nineties. They helped us understand the necessity of a good sense of humor and encouraged us to cultivate the art of listening to each other and to the world.
  • Graduate school, where I wrote a thesis on West African Theater in French.
  • Living in a predominately minority inner city community for the past 45+ years where family and personal ties are valued intensely, learning to share and reach out at Boston’s Children’s Hospital during multiple hospitalizations with our children and being  a member of a Unitarian Universalist urban church which fosters international perspective and outrage at injustice.
  • A brother who went from acting to having a punk boutique to being a costume designer in London. His fantasy figures challenged mine and vice versa. Being present when he died of AIDS was a pivotal experience. His spirit continues to inspire me.
  • Over forty-five  years in the craft community, first as a potter, then as a soft sculpture artist, then leather clothing, sculpture and books, but always with figures present.  Seeing other artists evolve encourages me to take risks.
  • Connecting with the Mythic Imagination Institute — at the Mythic Journey conference in Atlanta in 2006 , where I met Brian, Wendy, and Toby Froud — staying in touch with them  and others ever since.  Then in an effort to understand better the core of my work, taking an 18 mos. Applied Mythology course through the MII.  Every other month we spent long weekends in NYC  learning and sharing with extraordinary storytellers, writers, musicians and philosophers including Diana Wolkstein, David Gonzalez,  Ari Berk, Michael Meade, Janet Piedilato, Fred Johnson,  Lisa Sokolov, Honora Foah and others. I continued to take storytelling workshops with Diana.
  • Being intrigued and pushed by the imagination of film makers like Guillermo del Torro to explore darker moments to help savor the light; discovering the leather mask maker, Jorge Anon on a trip to Montevideo, Uruguay and purchasing his mask “Maya - the eternal weaver of the illusory world”. It was after that trip that eyes became an important element in my work.
  • Serving on the Executive Board of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, building relationships with writers, poets, and musicians who dance in the borderlands of art. I thank Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman for my introduction to the world wide IAF community.  It rocks!
  • A supportive and challenging husband and four children imbued with great energy and imagination and now three sons-in-laws, from Missouri, Michigan, and Cuenca, Ecuador, a daughter-in-law from NYC, and seven granddaughters and a grandson!

So there you have it: Mexican serapes; Picasso, Michelangelo; David Smith; African masks; Bosch; Dr. Seuss; Robert J. Lee; the Alhambra; gargoyles; Portobello Street; dolls by Barbara Newman; the Names Quilt Project; Dorothy Liebes; New Orleans Jazz; Carl Sandburg; e.e.cummings, peace demonstrations, bus rides, and snorkeling in Ecuador; rafting in the Bald Eagle preserve in Alaska with my mother and aunt in their 80's, a lot of flying in my dreams. And finally, a strong belief that as artists we have an obligation to tap into the swirling creative energy of the world, to share it, and to encourage the creativity of others for the perspective and understanding it can bring to life.

 

 

Wendy at work.

Credits: Photography by: Jerry Anthony, Bob Barrett, David Eagan, Paul Jeremias, Ben Mitchell, John Polak, George Post, and Wendy Ellertson

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