Artist VIPs 2012: Ellen Wiener

ellen Wiener

Does the tool affect the culture or does it reflect the culture?”

there is an honesty to printmaking. something about a one-of-a-kind (or very limited edition) print transfers a sense of authenticity to the holder. there is history to it that is felt instantly, in a tactile way, but also instinctively. and perhaps, in our “e-that” and “i-this” driven race to go paperless, printed books haunt us with quiet urgency. because “the medium changes the vocabulary.”

wiener is keeping all this alive and more. inspired by medieval prayer books, the mythology of the forest and the way medium dictates an interpretation, she prints singular apparitions. the pieces originate with drawings and considerable research. but the act of “reading” her books is itself a riddle—only one of them has featured words. and yet, “there is a vocabulary and a grammar that works from piece to piece, because there is an idea attached to them.”

what she is talking about is the physical gravity of tools, or artwork or books. about “how we see. and how seeing is the first thing.” it’s about time and “slowing time down.” and about intimacy. “the scale is about what is personal and what is public.” (the books are super long accordions that expand to envelope the full horizon of visual periphery.)

wiener wants you to get intimate with her work. “people don’t spend enough time with paintings…that you can go forward and backward [with the books] is very much like the process of thinking.” they are like memories themselves—they change each time you engage with one. the density changes what you see at a given moment. they are “secular objects that put the function of the altar in a person’s lap to meditate on, change, revisit.”

this system of perspective is also implicit in her wall works. there is so much density and so much detail, you have to get close and get the same intimacy as the books. and whether they are on paper or wood, they have a printmaking appeal. they are drawings that are “a network of density that turns into a formal device…they are collections of information not hidden behind the veils of art history. the space is abstracted but the ideas are very much there. trees? oh! i know what trees are!”

and so the viewer can easily connect, interpreting the artist’s unique language to illuminate his own memories.

“ivory lithics”(top), “letters from an illuminated alphabet”(bottom)

all photos this spread: lynn spinnato

nada marjanovich

nada marjanovich

Nada Marjanovich is Publisher and Editor of Long Island Pulse Magazine. Prior to founding the title in 2005, she worked extensively in the internet. She's been writing since childhood and has been published for both fiction and poetry.