Listening to ellis jake solie speak, it is very quickly apparent that she is an artistic soul. Her voice is soft and methodical, and her words are poetic. “I love things that seem magic. I feel like art is really good at that,” she says. As someone who can make even her own name into visual art by preferring the lowercase spelling, solie, a resident of Neenah, can find inspiration from anywhere and anything. She is currently in her final year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, pursuing a master’s degree in fine art with an emphasis in writing; however her art takes many forms.
Sculptures, paintings, ceramics and poetry are just a few of solie’s mediums. She enjoys using found pieces as her starting materials – wood, metal, lace, dyes – and interpreting what it is that “the thing wants to be.” She describes it as a collaboration between herself and the materials.
Sometimes even the weather is her collaborator. When discussing her plein air paintings, solie says “It’ll be raining and I’ll be painting, and so, what happens is it often moves things around a bit, it makes them a little fuzzier, a little more atmospheric.” She describes it as the clouds exerting their own direction for the painting.
When talking about works that are still in progress, solie speaks about the pieces as though they are beings separate from her, as though she is simply helping them come alive. “My pieces are very shy when they’re not ready,” she says. “Sometimes where they start going, they end up in a totally different way, so I don’t want to squash the little spirit that might be there.”
Her most recent finished sculpture is a tall tree that is made of recycled books. “It feels very spiritual to me, it feels like its own thing, and I enjoy being next to it.” She says she wants to make a forest of them, each using books from certain subjects such as gardening, war, or children’s’ books. “And then, walking through, you can feel the different energy of each.”
A sudden and traumatic near-death experience shaped solie as a person and artist, giving her a new perspective that she didn’t feel before. She is using this freedom to be her authentic self, and says that we all can.
“It was beautiful. I’d never wish that on anyone; but it was a beautiful experience because I just get to do what I want now. And I was able to before, but I didn’t know,” she says. “I feel like everyone is creative in a certain way, but they don’t necessarily allow themselves to do what they want to do or be happy. I’m really thankful.”
The Trout Museum of Art will be hosting solie’s work December 8-14 as part of its Seventeen Weeks exhibit. See more at ellisjakesolie.com.