Briefly describe the work you do.
I am an interdisciplinary artist exploring the shared, everyday challenge of resisting change and maintaining control. Within my work I strive to create experiences that engage the cultural conscience of the audience, while addressing social and political issues through image, performance and installation.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was raised in Fargo, ND and currently live and work in Buckhannon WV as an Assistant Professor of Art at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I received my MFA in Studio Art from University of South Florida, as well as a BA in Theatre and Art, and a BS in Design Technology from Bemidji State University. Additionally, I have obtained training at Dell’Arte International and the Brave New Institute. My experiences in theater, office settings, and mass media consumption all influence my work. When creating works, I attempt to avoid specific media categories and instead allow my concept to drive creation.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice waffles between the classic idea of an artist toiling alone in a secluded room and large collaborative creations, which are often a part of my performances and videos. Because my practice includes both secluded drawing and team-based work, I get to reap the benefits of both worlds, and can simply switch to the other when I get bored.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I often find myself in an endless cycle of applying for various exhibitions, grants, residencies, etc. When I first started making art, I had no idea how time consuming this part of the job is.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Late morning is the best time of day for my practice. I try to set aside time every week during the school year for my creative work, and during summer I try to use residencies for extremely focused work for weeks or months at a time.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years my work has changed according to the various landscapes I have encountered. Florida, where I completed my MFA was very different from Colorado, where I lived for one year as a visiting artist, and that is also very different from West Virginia, where I current live and teach. Each landscape leaks into my work in one way or another.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Often, my work includes some form of adapted personae, or character, following in the footsteps of The Yes Men, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Henry Darger.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I can’t think of an occupation I’d like more than being an artist!
About Ellen Mueller
Ellen Mueller has exhibited nationally and internationally as an interdisciplinary artist exploring the everyday challenge of resisting change and maintaining control. She received her MFA in Studio Art from University of South Florida. Recent exhibitions span a variety of venues including CNN.com, the Cardiff Story Museum, and the Taubman Museum of Art. Recently, she has been selected for residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Ucross Foundation, Santa Fe Art Institute, and Nes Artist Residency in Iceland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.