FEATURE.INTERVIEW: Lora McPhail and Michael Jantzen interview electronic artist Ellen Jantzen about her new body of work entitled “Artificial Evolution”
Lora McPhail and Michael Jantzen (L&M): Briefly introduce us to the key formal and thematic issues in this current body of images.
L&M: What do you
think are some of the most important things in life that inspire you
to do the work that you do? How do you develop your hybridizations
and/or elemental relationships?
EJ: First of all, I create to give meaning to my life. I draw inspiration
from the natural world; rock formations, seedpods, nests; shapes that
resonate with reproduction, growth and repetition. I feel compelled to
work in ways
that create meaning. I pull from somewhere deep inside, not from a purely
analytical space, so my hybridizations are very spontaneous and uncalculated.
They are developed subconsciously then meaning is assigned as I refine
and title each piece.
L&M: Can you describe
how the relationship between the original photo-shoot set-ups and the
final digitally enhanced images has evolved
in your work,
as you have become more invested in the medium?
EJ: I do a lot of playing
around, testing different relationships and locations. I take dozens
and dozens of photographs of my set-ups
may end up only
producing a few final pieces from that abundance. As I become
more invested in the medium, I have come to better understand what
out comes of
my set-ups will be. For instance, I have become fascinated with
translucency and find that more and more I include some translucent
This allows me to control and direct light in interesting ways.
While I am becoming more “skilled” at understanding
the relationships and possibilities of each set-up as it pertains
to my image making
process, I sometimes purposefully create random set-ups for their
L&M: Referring to
your own experience as a designer, what aspects of the media best serve
your vision and/or process? Is
inherent about the computer (and how you use it to create your
work) that urges innovation, if so, what do you think this
EJ: As a designer, I
have been drawn to working in a hands-on manner with three-dimensional
forms. All along I have also
to two-dimensional work, especially graphics. With the advent
and ever increasingly sophisticated computer graphics software,
I have been
able to combine my desires into one direction. The computer
allows me to
see in new ways; it allows me to be surprised by the outcome
and the possibilities. The computer urges innovation by presenting
is up to me to say “stop” when I deem something
new and different is worthy of saving. Again, because I have
photos to draw
from, I save, initially, hundreds of images. From these the
selection, the editing, begins.
L&M: What kind of equipment and or technologies do you wish you had
access to that you don’t, and how might these things
help to advance the integrity of your work?
EJ: Well, I could always
use a more powerful computer with a larger screen, a higher mega pixel
camera, a bigger format
printer… on and on, but
these wouldn’t really advance the integrity of my work, just make
what I currently do quicker. What I would like to investigate next is animation.
Of course I’d need software and time to learn.
I feel that I could successfully create short animations
of my hybrids
form right before your eyes.
you thought of experimenting with similar themes and aesthetics in
other media? How do you feel scale, dimension and time influence your
EJ: Yes, animation as I mentioned before would be a new direction I would like to experiment with. I also would like to experiment with creating three-dimensional sculptures based on some of my hybrid images. I think this would be rather interesting; to go from a three dimensional set-up to a two dimensional image and back to a new three dimensional hybrid object where I would have had to interpret the full three dimensionality of the flat image.
scale of my work, currently, is quite intimate. Both my images and
set-ups are under three feet or so and the dimensions accommodate the
photo format to some degree. I can foresee creating some grand scale
set-ups using large landforms as more that backdrops. Perhaps my hybrids
would become human scale. I would then want my images to be quite large
also, mural-scale perhaps, to emphasize the human scale aspect allowing
viewers to interact with the images.
L&M: How consciences are you while you are working, that what you finally
present as your art, may have any political relevance? And, if your
work is perceived by some to be politically relevant, how important
is this to you?
EJ: I have varied political
concerns from poverty and hunger to issues of war. These are in the
background as I create, influencing but not directly guiding
my directions. I am concerned with GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)
and how corporations are controlling more and more of plant and animal life.
I am concerned with indigenous people being bullied into purchasing their seed
rather than saving seed from the year before. But, I feel there are activists
much more gifted politically than I am who can address these, and so many other
issues, straight on intellectually. I want to deal with the emotional side
of charged issues through my art by addressing them in an allusive manner.
have written poetry, trying to put feelings into words but found that my medium
is mainly the visual.
L&M: How might you
see your work developing to address these concerns ever more directly?
How do you hope other people will most be influenced by you,
and your work?
EJ: I don’t want
to develop a more direct approach, at least not in the near future.
Again, I feel what I have to offer is a unique vision that
my concern with living entities and the natural world without being preachy
or specific. I hope my work inspires others to create in their own way,
their issues of concern in personal terms that are unique to them.