Briefly describe the work you do.
I make paintings and objects that visualize disease as a means of self- portraiture.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up on a large, Civil War era farm outside of Baltimore, Maryland. I spent the majority of my childhood outside playing in the dirt and rummaging through the fields, adding to my various collections. My Mom is a ceramicist and always had my brothers and I creating something. My Dad is a computer software engineer and a vat of knowledge. I am a true amalgamation of my parents.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I have trouble keeping my hands still. I feel the need to constantly use my hands in a productive manner. When I am in my studio, I try to stay as busy as possible making. There are too many things to play with in my studio that I get very distracted from researching and reading.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I take on the role of a scientist in my studio. I conduct every project like an experiment. I am constantly testing new materials and I have them act like experimental variables—some are constants, others controlled, and I always like to throw in a catalyst just to add some excitement. However, unlike a scientist, there isn’t always a concrete solution I’m searching for and I am also a compulsive rule breaker. Most of the time my experiments are purely for fun, but the results may appear in work that I make months later.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I try to spend as much time in my studio as possible during the week, but the moment the sun goes down is the moment I go into hibernation. The studio can be an overwhelming place and lying on my couch watching bad TV is my panacea. However, no matter where I am, I feel like my studio is always there with me—I am researching, reading, sketching, or obsessing in my spare time away from my studio.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I have always been fascinated with disease—a hypochondriacal obsession. Trying to visualize disease has always been the foundation of my work, but the imagery that I use has changed over the years. Scientific imagery, especially images that are nearly impossible to see unassisted, has always captivated me. Despite imagery changes, my work still has a sense of delicacy and intimacy.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My parents and my brothers are my go-to for advice. When I’m researching and don’t understand scientific terms, I call my younger brother so he can put it into simple terms for me. I feed off the knowledge of other people and they are always there to teach me something new. Lately, the 1970’s feminist art movement and the Abject have had a huge impact on my work.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I daydream about being a plant pathologist, a veterinarian, a mycologist, or an owner of a cat sanctuary. But I am neck deep in this career, so I take my daydreams and make them the guiding force in my studio. The physicality of material, the lack of rules and endless possibilities, and the therapeutic nature of art keep me motivated to continue creating.
Ellie Dent (b. 1991) is an American artist working in painting and sculpture. Dent was born in Baltimore, Maryland and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Towson University in 2013. She is currently an MFA candidate in painting at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.