Ellen N. Zisholtz
We are all faced with great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
Both my art and my life seem to be directed by this, my favorite quote. If I am faced with an obstacle, I search for the path to a solution. When I paint, I put paint on the canvas, often in several layers, interspersed with a wash which drips onto the canvas, creating shapes. I have an idea in mind, but the paint speaks to me in images. Sometimes my hand develops the initial work, without the conscious effort of my brain. Then in the paint itself, I create meaning through a conversation with the canvas. If I am not satisfied, I do another wash with drips on the canvas and may change the orientation of the images. I usually paint with oil paint, now water soluble oils, but sometimes add pastels, collages or other mixed media.
I am deeply committed to Art with a Conscience. I was brought up by my family to be concerned about social justice. My consciousness was reinforced at City College, when I had the amazing opportunity to study with Kenneth Clark, the psychologist and educator, whose research became a pillar of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that toppled the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation and Dante Puzzo, educator, historian and author. My commitment to social justice led me to projects in the South where I learned about Penn Center, which opened in 1862, early in the Civil War, as one of the first schools for former slaves. I was inspired by heroes of the Civil Rights movement including David Dennis, Millicent Brown, Bob Moses and Hank Thomas. I was impelled to connect my art with my deepest feelings and relate them to the community. Now, when we are faced with imminent danger of losing all that we value, the arts and humanities are more important than ever. Art can make a difference.
My primary artistic influences were from two major artists whose social justice art impacted the world: Rudolph Baranik and Leon Golub. I am grateful for encouragement from my mother and artist father, David Zisholtz. I was the featured artist at the Meridian Museum of Art, Mississippi, for the 2015 National Civil Rights Conference; exhibited in Transcending Slavery and the Holocaust, Temple University; had solo exhibitions at the York W. Bailey Museum, Penn Center, Beaufort, SC and the Cochran Gallery, Georgia; and in New York City, SOHO on 6th and the New York State exhibition at the Avante Gallery.