“The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)” by Ellie Harold, 2016 Collaborating Artist
For our Summer Fantasies concert, we invite you to join us in a colorful journey for the imagination as we visit the themes of summertime and all of its fantastical elements. In this series of brief articles, you can learn more about our collaborative artist and the individual pieces on the program.
When you attend a Manitou Winds concert, not only are you able to experience and witness the unique, intimate quality of chamber music, you can also experience the unique visual art provided by our collaboration with a local artist we’ve personally selected.
What does it mean to “collaborate” with an artist? How can musicians and visual artists truly collaborate when each works in a completely different medium? We’ve learned that each collaboration means something a little different. Each experience is flavored by the music we’ve chosen for the concert and also by the artist’s personal style, their existing work, and their eagerness to engage and bond with a bunch of musicians.
Our 2016 collaborating artist is Ellie Harold of Frankfort. You can read all about Ellie and her marvelous home studio and gallery in an article we posted earlier this year while we were working toward our spring concert. Ellie’s work is unique for its boldness of colors and contrasts and its blurring of the lines between representational and abstract art. The immediate and unmistakable effect of her artwork was what initially drew us to reach out and ask her to collaborate with us. However, it has been her personal artistic philosophy and her openness to explore new facets of the creative process that has made her an inspiration to us and has insured more joint projects for us in the future.
Our collaborating artists typically provide artwork to help us promote our concert, and we always offer the artist an opportunity display a collection of their artwork at the concert venue. But, not too long before the concert, Ellie approached me with an even bolder idea. “About a week before the concert, a friend asked if I was going to paint ‘live’ during the event,” Ellie recalls. “I’d heard of artists ‘performing’ live before an audience and had not given it much thought, but in this circumstance it seemed like a perfect way to expand our notion of collaboration.”
I remember getting Ellie’s e-mail about painting live while I was in the midst of pulling together some rehearsal details. I had been struggling with ways to demonstrate for the audience the deeper connection between our music and Ellie’s art. Though I was immediately touched by our synchronicity of thought, her idea seemed very risky to me initially. I thought, perhaps, a few audience members may find the presence of an artist and a canvas distracting or feel it was some form of artistic non sequitur. Still, though, I found the idea irresistibly refreshing. After polling the rest of the group members to be sure they wouldn’t find it distracting to their own performance and okaying it with the concert host, I gave Ellie the green light.
Ellie arrived to set up her exhibit in the narthex — a very exciting sampling of the contents of her gallery. Then, she brought in the very blank 30″ x 40″ canvas that was to be her part of the performance. “How on earth is she going to fill up a canvas that size?” I wondered, “And will she feel nervous with a live audience or be rushed by the clock and the program as it sweeps by?”
“I had located my gear off to one side in the area occupied on Sunday mornings by the choir. I squeezed out some paint and placed the blank canvas on my easel. With no particular image in mind, I simply responded to the music as I was hearing it in the moment,” Ellie recalls. “Deliberately setting aside my thoughts, as in meditation, I painted intuitively, allowing the brush or palette knife, this color or that, to make their way to the canvas without thought, according to impulses arising both from the music and within me. Within a short time, I found myself at one with the music, in a sort of fearless, inspired, altered state I’d previously only experienced when speaking or teaching in church.”
— Ellie Harold
By intermission, you could tell our audience was intrigued by the joint creative process they were witnessing. The music we were performing was less than 20 years old and certainly not familiar to most concertgoers. The titles and composers listed on the program did not provide many clues. Only the performance itself could reveal the intent and direction of the music. Meanwhile, Ellie’s painting was even newer — each color and shape an unfolding mystery for the eyes.
Following the concert, audience members gathered around Ellie’s canvas to see her creation up close. For the members of Manitou Winds, it was especially exciting because we’d been completely unable to see the canvas during the performance. Ellie dubbed the painting “New Voices” (the theme and title of the concert).
“To me the painting speaks of the reality of how Art Ideas can find expression when there’s openness and trust in the process of consecrated action,” Ellie says. “I can recognize familiar elements in this work, but I also see lyrical passages that seem directly related to the music. As a whole, the painting seems to have come from a space that includes me, but also transcends me.”
Speaking personally, I find the landscape Ellie brought to life during the performance a very intriguing piece — at once welcoming and foreboding. There’s an apparent direction to the forms, but throughout there’s also a very open and improvised feeling, not unlike the mystifying pattern of falling raindrops. I feel drawn into this landscape to explore and discover the mysteries hiding behind those forms.
You can find Ellie’s painting (“New Voices”) on display in her gallery at 402 Forest Avenue, Frankfort, alongside her other paintings newly created this summer. Also among her summer’s bounty is the painting selected to promote our upcoming concert entitled “The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)”. We’re looking forward to our performance with this magnificent landscape as a colorful backdrop.
On September 30th, Ellie will join us once again on-stage at the Oliver Art Center in “Summer Fantasies” as we explore the many moods and colors of summertime. Ellie says the canvas will be even bigger, this time! We’re all excited to see where her brush will take us as the music guides us along an uncharted, fantastic journey.
For more information about Ellie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, visit www.EllieHarold.com.
Don’t miss Summer Fantasies
Friday, September 30th, at 6pm
Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Admission is free.