N.Y. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards- 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' FIRST PLACE: ELLEN GARVENS 'You Wanted Chaos' (Click on image for larger view)
YOU WANTED CHAOS by Ellen Garvens
(Click on image for larger view)

Curator Mary Dondero says, "Dear Ellen,
I chose your work as top photographic image because of the impact that it had on my viewing experience. The image made me stop, wonder, enjoy, imagine, and gain a sense of both joy and tragedy at once. I enjoyed the fact that there was great effort put into the set up of what could be considered a still life, but in fact it is a contemporary image that pushes the traditional boundaries of image making and viewers expectations.

Your choice to use what we might consider to be commonplace objects from our everyday lives creates pause in the viewing experience. I like the way that the lighting is not distracting making no effort to shape a mood or impose meaning on the objects. And of course these ordinary objects are not the subject matter at all! They offer the viewer the opportunity to project either their own joy or grief into the meaning of the work. It’s unclear if all viewers would be able to decipher the exact metaphors presented yet that is not important. Is the work archetypal, formal, semiotic, and/or biographical? Of course the answers are partly obvious and also unknown.

I feel as though the connotation is that the photographed objects have become replacements for individual “characters” in a possible narrative. The narrative is unclear yet the viewer is invited to pause and imagine, and that invitation is what the best artwork does.

Enjoying your work!"

Dondero asks, "How do you see the objects used in your imagery different or similar to the tradition of photo-montage, and different or similar than still life?"

Garvens says, "The work has elements of both photo-montage and traditional still life. Common to photo montage, elements in the images float or exist without gravity, but in my case being held in place by strings, tape or oil clay. They push against logic – like a photo-montage might, but exist only temporarily and are not altered outside of the camera.

 I do use objects that are typical of still lives – cut flowers, small tables, vases, etc., yet the work is not really about the meaning of these objects. It is more about their instability and lack of permanence or solidity in the scene."

Dondero says, "Do the objects you use in constructing your imagery have personal meaning or is the intrinsic meaning held in the complete image?"

Garvens says, "Yes, I suppose that the objects have some personal meaning, as I do gravitate to certain kinds of objects repeatedly, yet I think more importantly the objects I choose have a fragility and awkwardness I find appealing.  

The complete image, as in its composition, play with foreground and background space, etc., reinforces a kind of doubt about where things are. I am interested in images with an unsettling quality."

Dondero says, "Do you consider your photograph as the end product, or are your constructions meant to also survive as sculptures?"

Garvens says, "I love to have people come to my studio to see the work in progress – as I think the installations are fun to experience. However, the work is made to be photographed. A photograph can more effectively defy logic, hide any explanation, and has the ability to use depth of field and motion to create more ambiguousness."

Ellen Garvens says, "With this theme I am thinking about a favorite cousin and a close friend both in the throes of a degenerative brain disease. What a solitary experience to lose what the rest of us take for granted; the ability to verbally communicate, the ability to understand visual experience and space, the joy of mobility. Their spirit is well communicated – still a sense of humor and a twinkle in their eyes. In the face of loss, the beauty of playfulness is what these longtime friends continue to share. The work celebrates this irony and faith."

Ellen Garvens is a Professor of Art at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Garvens received a B.S. in Art at the University of Wisconsin and a MFA from the University of New Mexico.  

She has received a Fulbright–Hayes Individual Grant, National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship Grant, and an Artist Trust /Washington State Fellowship.

The January 2009 Issue of "Contact Sheet," published by Light Work Galley in Syracuse, NY is dedicated to her work.

Her work is in the Collections of the University of New Mexico Fine Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery and the Cornel Museum of Fine Art, Rollins College, FL.