Livingston artist Ellen Hanauer shares how working with Wae Center artists on the “Love Seat” and “Ascend” chair opened her heart, and why she chose to work with all the Center’s artists, rather than a few.
1. What is your education and background as an artist?
I earned a BFA from Syracuse University in advertising design, and studied human body in cadaver labs/lectures at UMDNJ to prepare me as a sculptor.
2. What inspires you?
Nature, science, including biology and physics – specifically anatomy, embryology and quantum physics –prehistory, spirituality, and prayer
3. How would you describe your artistic style and your process?
My work has been described as original, organic and experimental. I am interested in things that are hidden – worlds that exist under the surface. My castings along the NJ shore speak to this, as they are actually created underground, in the sand in a blind drawing process. I rely on how it feels in my body to pump casting material under the sand’s surface. The process is drawing, the product is sculpture – and this too interests me. I’ve also cast in salt beds and snow.
4. What do you do when you’re not creating art?
Even when I’m not creating art, I’m creating something. Product invention, writing music, working in wood, sketching, designing craft projects, scrumbling (freeform knitting and crocheting), writing poetry, and illustration are some of the things I do in my spare time. I teach adult sculpture and ceramics classes, and crafts and toy making classes for children. I am a grandmother of five girls and I adore making art with them and for them.
5. What was your experience working at the Wae Center on your Chair?
Initially I felt fear, fear of not being able to communicate with each of the members. As the project progressed, I eased into my role and felt the joy from each of them as they made their assemblages. The love I felt working with everyone at the Wae Center was so strong that at the end of each day, I was euphoric.
6. Did your Chair concept change or evolve as you worked with the Center’s artists?
My concept did not change at all. The thing that evolved was that my heart opened a bit wider.
7. What does Inclusion mean to you?
Inclusion means breaking down barriers of fear so that we may all be able to flourish together.
8. What initially inspired your Chair concept?
Given the challenge of working with a few of the Center members, I asked if I could work with all of them. The moment I heard the word “yes”, the image of the completed chair (Love Seat) came to me. The same was true of the paper chair (Ascend), for once I proposed my artists’ group for a commission, I immediately thought of a ladder back chair, made entirely of paper. This made sense, since we all met in a paper-making class almost 20 years ago and this group has always inspired me.
9. What are your hidden talents?
I can write backwards. If you ever find one of my notes that look like gibberish, just turn it around and hold it up to the light – all my secrets will be revealed.
10. What is your next project?
This fall, I have a few things on my agenda, besides my teaching: I’ll be doing mono prints in my studio, continuing to make prayer sculptures out of clay, returning to the NJ shore to cast sculpture. I have around 80 drawings due for an upgrade to a physical therapy app I illustrated, Rehab Therx. Juggling many pieces at once feels very natural to me.