Ellen Cornett chosen for Hirshhorn Museum exhibit
All summer Ellen has been contributing to an exhibit of charcoal drawings at the
. Yes. Hirshhorn Museum Hirshhorn Museum. THE
The museum selected Ellen and 14 other artists to draw on the walls as part of its exhibit,
, which just closed this week. Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who’s afraid of red, yellow and green)
I’ll try to explain more about the title and the artist Tiravanija later, but let’s look at the art first.
Here is a picture of what the walls looked like when I was there on May 23. The Thai artist Tiravanija supplies photos depicting protest, rebellion, and repression. Ellen and the other artists render them in charcoal on the walls. When I took this photo, they had been working for a few days (not all at once!—two or three artists work at the same time during designated blocks of time).
This is what those same walls looked like eight weeks later. When he opened the exhibit, Tiravanija said, “The idea is to draw over other images and layer it until the wall will become completely black. It will become more layered and complex.”
This is a good example of what Tiravanija meant about images becoming layered and complex. Ellen drew the woman carrying the torch, placing it on top of another drawing that was already there. Then, another artist drew the banner with stars on top of the woman that Ellen had drawn. “We are working over and under other people’s work. It’s kind of amazing. Some of the weaving has been brilliant,” Ellen said. “Integrating one figure with another makes it so rich.”
Eight weeks ago, Ellen was drawing on white walls. Now she is placing an image on top of other ones and sometimes rubbing out area to lighten them.
The exhibit uses images related to repression and brutality in Thailand and other countries, but also historical photos, like this one that Ellen drew of women suffragettes. This photo shows those same suffragettes with other images layered over them.
Ellen drew this horrific image on one of the first days she was there. Here is the same image two months later.
The exhibit is billed as part performance art. Every day for a couple of hours during lunchtime, curry is served: red, yellow, and green curry, as noted in the title of the exhibit. The colors of the curry refer to political groups in Thailand that are in conflict: the red represents rural activists, the yellow the royalists, and the green the military. (Photo by Shannon Finney, Hirshhorn)
Ellen notes that having the artists present, creating the drawing, is also part of the “performance art” aspect of the exhibit. “Without us there drawing, the mural is less powerful, less wonderful.”
Many of the artists participating are young. “Some of the kids I am working with are quite amazing,” Ellen said. “I’m learning from them.” That’s Ellen for you.
Even though she had very high expectations about her time at Hirshhorn, Ellen now says, “I do have to say that the whole experience and the resultant art is so much more wonderful even than I had expected.”