BlackRock Center for the Arts Presents Ellen Cornett: Into the Woods

By Editorial Team on October 13, 2020
The Herd by Ellen Cornett.
On View: Saturday, September 12 through Saturday, October 31, 2020

BlackRock Center for the Arts is pleased to announce the virtual exhibition Ellen Cornett: Into the Woods will be presented online from Saturday, September 12 through Saturday, October 31, 2020. This is the first solo exhibition by Maryland artist Ellen Cornett to be presented at the nonprofit arts center. The virtual exhibition can be viewed online through the BlackRock website while the building remains temporarily closed to the public. During the temporary closure, which began March 16, the Kay Gallery at BlackRock has been transformed into a space for consolidating and repackaging donated food and essential items to be distributed by volunteers to individuals and families affected by the pandemic. To learn about the Upcounty Consolidation Hub at BlackRock, visit: www.blackrockcenter.org/upcounty-consolidation-hub/

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION “ELLEN CORNETT: INTO THE WOODS”: https://www.blackrockcenter.org/ellencornett/

In meticulously detailed drawings, Ellen Cornett creates surreal tableaux layered with narratives and themes frequently referencing fables, poems and rhymes which incorporate the Maryland artist’s fascination with stories of transformation, artifice, and disguise. In her solo exhibition, “Ellen Cornett: Into the Woods,” she presents a series of recent works where she manipulates familiar characters into mysterious vignettes exploring conflict, misunderstanding, absurdity and relationships gone awry. While the subject matter of each of the 37 drawings in the exhibition varies widely, common motifs tie them together and make them seem like moments in one long, overarching plot. Using carbon pencil, supplemented by colored pencil in select works, she skillfully renders animals and humans, often wearing animal masks, interacting in unexpected ways in ambiguous scenes, filled with absurd possibilities, where unresolved endings leave room for the viewer’s interpretation.

Cornett is an avid reader who has always been fascinated by folk tales and stories like the “Just So Stories” by British author Rudyard Kipling, which feature fantastic accounts of how various features of animals came to be. Kipling’s stories are referenced in the titles of several of Cornett’s works, including “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin,” “The Elephant’s Child,” and “The Cat Who Walked by Himself” among others. Several of the drawings reveal the artist’s playful sense of humor while also focusing on more serious themes in works like “All Animals Are Created Equal” and “Climate Changes.” When Cornett incorporates human figures, she often photographs friends and family posing in costume for works like “Wolf Turned Shepherd” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” The artist also photographs herself and is the subject of a series of five self-portraits in the exhibition, to include “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf” and “Goldilocks and the Three Dancing Bears.”

Always happy to have a pencil in her hand, Cornett begins her creative process working in sketchbooks, filled with hundreds of pages, where she dreams up her characters and scenes. She next enters the planning phase, searching through resource images or taking photographs to find just the right subjects to fit the narrative. Cornett spends time collaging the photos of animals, figures and props together as she finalizes the composition, always incorporating dynamic negative space. Transferring to high quality paper she begins to draw using carbon pencils, which produce softer more delicate gradations than graphite. Cornett previously used an easel, but now works flat on a large table which allows more freedom to move around. To keep the paper pristine, she works from the upper left to the lower right corner to ensure she does not smudge her delicate strokes. Often listening to music or recorded stories while she works, Cornett finds the experience of drawing meditative but she sometimes listens to music while working and is used to being interrupted by her cat who likes to sit on top of the table and observe.

Cornett always knew she wanted to make art, but the Montgomery County native (who grew up in Kensington and graduated from Albert Einstein High School) initially chose a college major in Political Science. She soon realized she was miserable, turned her studies to art with a focus on printmaking, and earned a BA in Studio Art from University of Maryland in College Park. Cornett then worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for more than 25 years, producing advertising material, fine art catalogues, product packaging and corporate identity packages for clients across the country. At age 50, she began to focus again on creating her own art and achieved success entering work into juried exhibits and winning awards. Cornett slowly began contemplating a career shift and decided to see whether or not she could support the costs associated with making art through selling her artwork and teaching.

In 2002 she began teaching drawing and painting at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington, DC. After taking a series of workshops, the artist was inspired to focus on creating a body of work and was invited to present her first solo show in 2008. Cornett won the inaugural Brentwood Arts Exchange “Project America’s Next Top Master Artist” in 2014, which included three rounds of elimination by a panel of judges as well as popular vote. Since 2017 she has been able to pursue her fine art career full time and has presented her work in numerous exhibits both regionally and nationally. In 2019, the Hirshhorn Museum selected Cornett to participate in the interactive exhibition “Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green)” where she, along with 14 other artists, drew on the walls of the museum to create murals depicting protest, rebellion, and repression. Cornett maintains a studio in Cheverly, MD where she has lived for more than 30 years.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Ellen Cornett earned a BA in Studio Art from the University of Maryland in College Park where she studied printmaking with Tadeusz Lapinski and James Forbes. She worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for more than 25 years. Since starting to exhibit in 2007, Cornett’s has shown regionally and nationally with solo exhibitions of her work presented at galleries which include Brentwood Arts Exchange (Brentwood, MD), Greater Reston Arts Center (Reston, VA), Marymount University (Arlington, VA), Fisher Art Gallery at Northern Virginia Community College (Alexandria, VA), and Montpelier Arts Center (Laurel, MD). Her work has been selected for numerous curated and juried group exhibitions presented at galleries which include Touchstone Gallery (Washington, DC), Harmony Hall (Fort Washington, MD), Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery (Washington, DC), The Nave Gallery (Somerville, MA), Gallery O on H (Washington, DC), Maryland Federation of Art (Annapolis, MD), and FeGallery (Sacramento, CA).

Cornett’s work has received merit awards in juried competitions and is included in both private and public collections, including the Montgomery County Public Art Trust. She has been awarded a DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) Project Purchase Award (2007) and the Prince George’s County Purchase Award (2012 and 2017). In 2019, the Hirshhorn Museum selected Cornett to participate in the interactive exhibition “Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green)” where she, along with 14 other artists, drew on the walls of the museum to create murals depicting protest, rebellion, and repression. She began teaching drawing and painting at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington, DC in 2002 where she has served as Visual Arts Department Chair since 2015. Cornett maintains her studio practice in Cheverly, MD. Learn more about the artist on her website: www.ellencornett.com

Virtual Exhibition Presented Online
https://www.blackrockcenter.org/galleries/