Elee Oak – Artist Statement
When I was six I had a friend 75 years my elder. I used to visit her, we chatted and played her piano, a seasoned upright. Most of the ivory was stripped from the keys. Left, were the irregular glue vestiges that appeared to me as if each note had it’s own tiny low relief panel on it. There were beautiful patterns, textues, colors and probably growths from the moist Iowa summers. I loved our visits and that battered old piano. Every key invited all my senses to open. As I touched their faces I listened with all my cells to the stories, my friends and her pianos.
In 1986 I was 22 and my mother passed. I found she kept my childhood drawings. I was fascinated by them. I began focusing on reawakening, the blameless process I once freely used. Today I strive to balance technical skill, historical knowledge, life experience... And other fundamental concerns, to serve a vision motivated by the ultimate abandoned I’ve found in those with the closest bond to creative clarity, the very young and untainted.
Images and concepts emerge through written and visual journaling, which I have done for 38 years. When I make the wall pieces I construct working grounds or surfaces first. As I build them I bury things in them - a strong foundation usually of wood, cloth, papers, packaging, drawings, whatever feels right and doesn’t conflict with the structural integrity of the piece. These pieces are sculptural in many ways. I have always incorporated old discarded things mixed with various other materials and objects I create. I feel and work the surface, sanding, adding pigments, fibers, plaster, anything that succeeds. When the ground (I like to call it) begins to maintain a familiar and soothing atmosphere, that is when I start planting imagery into it. This multi layered slab though scarred and cracked is also stable and absorbent. It confirms and embraces my stories like my dearest eldest friend. I scratch lines, lay down pigmented plasters, washes of color, sand and scrap again. I keep working until I carve and rebuild my neglected truths in all their tenderness and brilliance.
My “sculptural” work is much the same, a combination of found stuff that has called to me and items I’ve made - combined and manipulated until the finished object conveys loyalty to my vision.
The process of making art is a luxury, one that we all deserve to practice, one that some of us pursue despite grueling obstacles, but a luxury just the same. I am extremely grateful for the support I received to practice this luxury called art.
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