Bottle Cap Chair, as seen in the traveling exhibition, Enhancements: Handcrafted FunctionalObjects, 2001-2003.
What at first appears to be a steel version of a 19th-century parlor chair with a frilly ruffle is on closer inspection a chair of our time, with cushions made of low-carbon steel shaped like bottle caps. Ellison’s work uses an emphatically modern material to create a functional object, the oft-seen bottle cap, simultaneously creating a work that stands up to the most rigorous aesthetic scan.
by Deborah Borrow-Dale-Cox, director of education at the University of Kentucky Art Museum.
“ART THAT WORKS:
The Decorative Arts of the Eighties,
Crafted in America”
One hundred and seven of America’s foremost designer-craftsmen will be honored in “ART THAT WORKS: The Decorative Arts of the Eighties, Crafted in America.” Lloyd E. Herman, founding Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on America’s contemporary craft movement, is Guest Curator for this exhibition. The tour will premier at the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 19, 1990, and then travel to 14 other United States museums.
Mint Museum of Art August 19 – October 7 1990
Huntsville Museum of Art November 17 – January 13 1991
Albany Institute of History & Art February 2 – March 31 1991
Minnesota Museum of Art April 20 – June 16 1991
Saint Paul, MN
Birmingham Museum of Art September 21 – November 17 1991
DeCordova and Dana Museum December 7 – February 2 1992
Dayton Art Institute February 22 – April 19 1992
Arkansas Art Center May 9 – July 5 1992
Little Rock, AR
Hunter Museum of Art July 25 – September 20 1992
Portland Art Museum October 10 – December 6 1992
Lowe Art Museum January 2 – March 28 1993
Coral Gables, FL
Columbus Museum of Art April 17 – June 13 1993
Ball State University August 3 – September 29 1993
Christopher Ellison would have been at home with the early alchemists, when earth, water, air and fire were perceived as the four and only elements. He begins his process by experimenting with the basic elements and ends it with discovery.
Ellison views color as something latent, waiting to be discovered to make the object complete. Relying on metal for his palette, he uses oxidation – the effect of air – to reveal the inner beauty of each particular piece.
The artist approaches both the form and his studio process with rudimentary and primitive energy. He grinds cupric nitrate and other patina chemicals with mortar and pestle and mixes intuitively, bound by no recipe, comfortable with the Honesty of trial and error. His goal is to instill in the object qualities of utility, antiquity and spirituality.
Ellison turns to the natural world for the finishing touches that he feels are needed to complete his work, making allies of time and the elements. He leaves his work outdoors for at least a month to complete the finish. Outside his studio in upstate New York, iron-rich rainwater creates trails through the brilliant copper blues. Meanwhile, the oxides continue to consume the surface metal, creating a constantly evolving work. Though he will occasionally seal a patina, Ellison’s preference is to allow the natural process to continue. As he says, “Although we may feel we can alter time, it cannot be separated from the natural world, for nature works in concert with time.
from Color on Metal: 50 Artist Share Insights and Techniques
by Tim McCreight, Nicole Bsullak
“Other artists have taken vessel making out of the strict context of utility to make us more sensitive to the psychological and ceremonial implication of the object. Christopher Ellison(‘s) … vessels make use of “appropriate” technique to best exemplify their intent. (His) pieces are rich not because the surface is polished, chased or patinated, nor because the form is properly raised or the solder seams invisible. The work has strength because the surfaces are finished with sensitivity to the concept.”
by Jamie Bennett,“American Holloware, Changing Criteria,”
Metalsmith, Summer 1984, page 12 – 13.