Rolling Hills Estates,
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Aldous Huxley
In an age when technology is slowly replacing the tactile experience of reading a book, my work recalls and celebrates the joy of losing oneself within the pages of a favorite childhood tale.
My current project, entitled Prior Pleasures, is deeply influenced by my love of literature. This series explores memory and preservation of the past while ensuring the creation of a visual legacy for the next generation. The books photographed for this series are the ones I have carried with me since childhood. My mother read them to me and, in turn, I read them to my children, carrying on a tradition of the written and spoken word.
Prior Pleasures is created using a multiple exposure technique (without Photoshop.) I photograph the end pages, illustrations, and text. This process allows me to show the excitement of a book fluttering open and coming to life for readers of all generations.
Rediscovering these books led me to realize the power and value of the hands-on experience of reading. As I documented each volume, I was transported to a time and place that allowed for imagination and fantasy. With this series, I examine what it is that we remember and how we honor objects that inspired our early creative thinking. Ultimately, Prior Pleasures is meant to remind us that books can excite and enrich our lives.
I Only Remember What I Don't Forget
I CAN ONLY REMEMBER WHAT I DON'T FORGET
"What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that is gone forever, impossible to reproduce" Karl Lagerfeld
I Can Only Remember What I Don't Forget is about memory, loss, aging and the creation of a legacy for the future. By photographing images and items as they existed in my parents' drawers, I am creating a new way of exploring personal history and the process of aging. Although my images do not change the original context, the new appropriated images change the meaning.
Ultimately, this series recontextualizes a way of looking at photographs and items from family archives. Although the moment may be impossible to reproduce, it often lingers in my mind as I sift through photographs and recreate a personal narrative. However, the experience is never the same and the memory fades.This fleeting moment in time reminds us that we can only remember what we don't forget, since some things are gone forever.
I created these images to hold on to things that are slipping away, not only from me personally, but from my family and eventually all of us. It is to remind us that there is and was a world before technology.
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl
At age 95, my Mother moved and I inherited boxes of old photos. I sifted through them, organized them by decades and dreamed about the past. As the family gathered to celebrate her 96th birthday, we reminisced and laughed over the events, clothes and even furniture of the past. Eventually the time line began to disappear and I realized that family history isn’t necessarily linear. Time, places and people all blended in my collective memory.
Life is basically a series of memories—whether from seconds ago or years ago. Our minds are similar to a labyrinth and photographs help to reflect, create and reconstruct our past. My Mother’s photographs had disappeared from my memory bank. Yet, when I saw them for the first time in years, I clearly remembered the dress I wore, the street I lived on, the other people and events where these photographs were first captured. Since many of the black and white images were photographed before I was born, I can only imagine what life was like for my parents and their friends and family. By combining photographs from different eras, I am creating a visual library of my family’s history for future generations. Now my grandparents are sitting not only with their grandchild, but with their great and great-great grandchild. My Mother is reading a newspaper with a headline about World War II in 1941 at the same time she is laughing with friends in the 1960’s. By combining photographs, I am compressing time and allowing viewers to see the past and not so past simultaneously.
This series references the works of several artists. Martin Parr often experiments with depth of field and renders subject out of focus.The shadow portraits of Lee Friedlander and John Baldessari use negative space and iconic dots to obscure both figures and places within photographic series. Inherent in our understanding of appropriating these vernacular imags is the concept that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create another work.
For me, photographs are the main source of life’s remembrances. Our minds see events and people subjectively and photographs sustain that memory. Images are an abstraction of the real experience and as such influence how we react emotionally to our past
FAMILY is about time, loss, memory and the creation of a legacy for the future.
Americans have created a reputation for living beyond their means and
gathering objects that signify their socio-economic accomplishments. The
current fiscal downturn, increase in technology and growing concerns about our
national food system have created a desire for a return to simple living. The idea
of simplicity is not to be confused with living in forced poverty. The roots of this
idea are far-reaching and those who embrace uncomplicated surroundings do
so for many reasons such as personal, spiritual, political and environmental.
Simple living encompasses the teachings of many religions, philosophers,
poets, writers, artists and even political groups stretching as far back in history
as Iron Age India, the Ancient Orient and Greco-Roman cultures. Epicurus
(Athenian philosopher 341-270 B.C.) taught that the path to happiness was
found in the unburdening of extravagance. He felt the trappings of materialism
often eclipsed the pleasure received by one’s possessions. His teachings would
ultimately inspire Henry David Thoreau, Edward Carpenter, William Morris and
others. Like so many who came before me, I realized that I, too, was seeking to
simplify my life. I was seeking the ways of Epicurus.
As I looked around my home of thirty-nine years, I realized I had accumulated
large amounts of objects and memories: toys, baby clothes, old medicine
bottles, paint cans, unused fabrics, and clothing now considered vintage.
Donating on a regular basis was part of my annual routine. However, like many
Americans, my closets and garage continued to be overflowing. There never
seemed to be enough room. Every nook and cranny of the house was filled with
items I no longer needed, wanted or that simply had lost their meaning. I needed
to purge my house of the clutter I had accumulated over the last 39 years. While
clearing out these items, I realized each object told a story. Holding a holiday
decoration, children’s book or old blankets produced a flood of memories. I
decided to document these items before they were lost to me.
I began to photograph each object prior to disposal or donation. Giving
importance to the mundane, each item was transformed into a still life—
evidence of the home I built and the life lived within its walls (marriage, children,
illness and survival, career and retirement). These photographs provided the
necessary closure, allowing me to let go of the objects.
Ultimately, these images ask several basic questions: What do the objects we
cling to say about us? Does one ever regret selling, donating or disposing of
items? Are we more than our possessions? Can one find lasting happiness in a more
“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”
UNORTHODOX ANATOMY references the 16th and 17th century genre of still life painting popular in the Netherlands called vanitas or momento mori. These paintings contains collections of symbolic objects invoking the inevitability of death. Although I was not contemplating my immediate demise, the thought of major surgery made me think of my mortality. Having been diagnosed with scoliosis, spondylolisthesis and stenosis, I started to visualize the anatomy of my lumber spine and how the doctors proposed to correct my abnormalities
From my interest in this genre of painting, I began to perceive my body and my vertebrae as both organic and inorganic with the spine out of shape, constricted, collapsing and decaying. In the vanitas genre rotten fruit was used as a symbol for decay..
Fruits and vegetables became symbols of my body. At first they were fresh from the refrigerator. Then I began to let them decay, grow mold and collapse to indicate a worsening condition. Inorganic materials of wire, screws, springs and even rubber bands became the symbols of the spine, the discs, the vertebrae, the mechanics of medicine. They were the tools necessary to hold this fragile system together.
Through allusion and metaphor, I am addressing the issues of pain, aging, the possibility of death and the options for living with titanium screws and plates and cages implanted within ones body.
"Light is unlocked, received and revealed as the fundamental penetrating force of the universe…” says Lyle Rexer in "The Edge of Vision, the Rise of Abstraction in Photography.”
Light is an essential life-giving element, whether it’s the light that allows me to photograph, the light that emanates from a light bulb or the light that nourishes a flower. The seemingly contradictory natures of flowers and light bulbs come together for me in the images I call “DICHOTOMY.”
In this series, I explore color, texture and shape. Color expresses a positive emotion in my work. The beauty and diversity of colors in our world are a source of inspiration and reflect my wonder at nature. Hard and soft textures delineate objects, while repeating shapes unify images.
By discovering and revealing hidden nuances and unique combinations, I strive to provide moments that capture the unexpected.
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw
My experience as an interior designer has helped me to see the world in unique ways. I enjoy not only the natural and built environment, but also environments that I create.
Having been trained in color, shape and design, I look for those elements when I am photographing. Photographing in color almost exclusively, I use the beauty and diversity of the world’s palette as a source of inspiration for my images. I strive to discover and reveal hidden nuances and unique combinations to order to capture the unexpected.
I am currently exploring the world of still life to discover how visual clues affect the meaning of what is being seen. By giving everyday items a new context, I want the viewer to rethink how ordinary, iconic objects are viewed and interpreted.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ellen Cantor graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign and UCLA Interior and Architectural Design Program. After a career in Interior Design, she studied photography at Santa Fe Workshops, with Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant in Canada and at the Julia Dean Workshops in Los Angeles, and shifted her focus into fine art photography.
A member of the Los Angeles Art Association Gallery 825, her work has been shown at UCLA School of Medicine, Palos Verdes Art Center, LAAA/Gallery 825, LACMA Rental Gallery, Photo LA and the Venice Art Walk among others. She is a founding member of The Peacock Group, a fine art photography group in the South Bay. Since 2002, Ellen has exhibited in more than 100 shows in Los Angeles throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
In 2012/2013, her photographs have been exhibited at the Platt/Borstein Gallery at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, in L’aura borealis at the Palos Verdes Art Center, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital Art Ability Exhibition in Malvern, PA, C.A.R. Network, The Innovative Art Fair in Seoul, Korea, Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825, Delaware Art Museum, WUHO Gallery and Galerie Nadine Feront in Brussels, Belgium, among others.
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