Upon seeing the works of Washington, DC based artist Dana Ellyn, one is immediately struck by the fact that there is more to her figurative paintings than bright colors and a unique artistic style. Straddling the fence between social realism and expressionism, Ellyn’s paintings have stories to tell, opinions to express, and according to the artist, the ability to “deliver hard slaps to myths of all kinds – from religion to politics.”
As an intellectual artist, Ellyn’s feelings and emotions about a subject or situation always give way to thought, and according to the artist – a whole lot of it. Ellyn shares that the works she creates represent much “plodding and planning” and that her process consists of “a lot of study, a lot of quiet… door closed.” It is fair to say that the paintings for her exhibition, STORYTELLING, are certainly no exception.
This latest body of work, notes Ellyn, was inspired by her “well-read focus” on literary classics, progressive views on current events, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Her recent works continue to demonstrate the artist’s ability to not only tell the story but to skillfully boil it down to its raw essence. This is perfectly exemplified in Ellyn’s painting, Bombs and Oil Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink. Employing a more graphic style reminiscent of a Soviet-era propaganda poster, children, looking skyward with mouths wide open, have raining down upon them oil and bombs. Regardless of a viewer’s position on America’s involvement in two wars or its dependence on foreign oil, the painting is most definitely a catalyst for contemplation and conversation.
Love it or hate it, Ellyn’s work is stimulating, provocative, and downright smart. Her ability to cleverly combine humor with social / political commentary, and then throw in a literary classic or two is an incredible gift to be sure. We can only hope that she continues to tell her stories and to challenge our sensibilities with her sharp wit and keen intellect.
Dana Ellyn is a full-time artist who lives and paints in her studio in a subsidized artist housing unit in downtown Washington DC. A graduate of George Washington University, Ellyn committed herself to full-time status in 2002 when she decided to leave her corporate job and pursue painting.
A prolific artist with an extensive exhibition record, Ellyn’s works have been shown in numerous galleries and institutions in this country and abroad and are held in many private collections.