My name is Ellen Rutt (she/her and they/them) an interdisciplinary artist and co-op organizer living on the ancestral land of the Anishinaabe peoples, currently known as Detroit, MI. Across a range of physical and digital media, murals, paintings, installations and collage, I study the complex and contradicting intersections of consumption, place, identity, and nature.
Please explain your thoughts and creative process behind the designs submitted.
I was thinking about the various forms water can take – it can be contained or flowing, dark and deep or light and transparent, it is filled with life and always moving.
In his book Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal, Noam Chompksy writes, “What is it about humans that enables them to spend $1.8 trillion on the military – the US far in the lead – while not asking, ‘Who will defend the earth?’”
While I have never lived near the ocean, I grew up in Michigan, a State that is surrounded by the Great Lakes which make up 21% of the world’s fresh water, water that is constantly being exploited by corporations. I feel a deep resonance the work organizations like Sea Shepherd are doing to defend, conserve and protect the vital marine life.
Is there an underlying message you aim to communicate through your work, if so, what is it?
More than communicating messages, I’m usually asking myself questions like – how are things connected? What can I make using existing materials? Who benefits from this work? What happens when I pour mud off the top of this building? How can I engage my whole body in the process of creating this work? How can I minimize waste? Can I swim and paint at the same time?
Have there been any standout or pivotal moments in your life that have inspired you as a creative?
After years of unreliable studio spaces, I started making work outside using materials like charcoal, and making my own egg tempera paints out of natural pigments. It was incredibly liberating to realize that with or without a studio I can make art in a way isn’t material intensive or disruptive to the surrounding ecosystems.
Where does your passion for your craft derive from?
I think it’s 1/3 emotional impulse (I have so many feelings what do I do with them), 1/3 agitated confusion (why are things the way that they are and how can I find a more just and equitable way of existing?) and 1/3 momentum (I guess I started this project so I should probably finish it)
What would your dream freelance job be and why?
I would love to work on a campaign for the yet-to-exist fully electric, affordable, publicly-owned, light rail train system that will (aspirationally) replace flying.
Any exciting plans for the future you would like to share?
I am really excited for an upcoming solo show with Louis Buhl in November and am in the process of purchasing a building with some artist/friends here in Detroit to operate as cooperatively owned studio spaces.
Please describe what this collection means to you
We are all environmentalists because we live on planet Earth. Everything is connected. End capitalism.