First published: Winter 2012
Ellen Greene's oeuvre is a cacophony of symbols. It is birthed from the artist’s visions, old school tattoo flash turned feminine power symbols, countless pairs of women’s hand gloves and ‘Invisible Mother’ Victorian photographs. Greene's work defies categories and time periods; she does not fit into outsider art, fine art or high fashion, yet could slip by in each one.
Greene is a rebel girl at heart and a steadfast mother of two young girls. In this new body of work, her two identities collide and converge into one — she is a heavily tattooed, redheaded female artist conjuring up mythic powers through classic tattoo imagery, yet lives in a modern-day consumer culture in which youth and beauty trump integrity and devotion to the family. Greene seeks to carve out a new vocabulary for the woman who is both and neither, who is of this world while simultaneously envisioning and seeking another one.
In her solo exhibition ‘Invisible Mother’s Milk’, at Packer-Schopf Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, Greene transforms the demure womens’ hand glove into a piece of art that embodies transformational mystery, intrigue and feminine power. When the mother slips these gloves on, or even has them in her presence, they remove her from the mundane and thankless yet powerfully human tasks of care giving.
The mother’s job is not easy; she must simultaneously stand back and watch while silently guiding. She must push and prod her children through everything, from birth to the tweenage years and into those vulnerable adolescent moments. Greene presents the mother as a glove-wielding magician who reveals secrets of the universe, childbirth, death, sex, anger, fear, love, loss and lust. The gloves inhabit a space of second skins, of powerful femininity, psychological transformation and quiet spiritual awakenings.
In her work, Greene challenges notions of what it means to be an artist and a mother, and moreover one who works with incredibly charged, hypersexual, classic tattoo imagery.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #77