Art in Alternative Spaces


Featured Artist

Ken Ellis

Dambala Wedo  34 x 42"   Fabric Dye on Canvas, Hand-Quilted with Beads & Sequins  Ken Ellis
















Ken is a native of Chicago and credits his interest in art to his father who taught him to sew.    As if being a male quilter were not enough of an anomaly, Ken's artwork often depicts shocking historical scenes of the life of  black and native Americans.    He also incorporates Haitian voodoo and other folk history in his work.   On the softer side, Ken creates quilts based on children's nursery rhymes.   Ken's work is exhibited around the country and was featured in Anatomically Correct's exhibition  Sewing the Seeds  A Look at Violence in American History at Bailiwick Arts Center and most recently in Anatomically Correct's exhibition Fairy Tale Friends at the Apollo Theater in Chicago.   Ken's Bonnie & Clyde quilt from our Sewing the Seeds exhibition can be seen on the cover of  Dr. Dog's "Fate" album releasing on July 22, 2008.

"I am Chicago born, bred & educated, made my debut at Cook County Hospital on Oct. 30th, 1954.My early childhood was in BronzeVille, one of my earliest memories is drawing on the blank pages of a set Biblical storybooks my Ma had bought me. In 1960 my family moved to the near north side, my Pop took a job as a building's engineer/ janitor in the Gold Coast neighborhood on the corner of Scott & Astor. I spent my formative, teenage & early adult years living at 52 E. Scott , the people who lived in the building throughout the period were all wonderful & quite a influence on nurturing the Artist in me. Over the years several different moved in & out of the building among them were the Drakes, Dr.&Mrs. Coogan , the Weese's, the Rovner's . I attended Ogden Elementary from 1961 to 1968 , Lane Tech 1968 to 1972 taking the Comm. Art course, I attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Art from 1973 to 1975 studying Cartooning, Animation & Film Making, The School of the Art Institute in 1975/76 studying Animation, Columbia College 1976/77 studying Writing, Television Production & Intro. into Television. In 1976 my Pop pasted & I took over his job while still doing the school it lasted about a year I in the interim had discovered Punk Rock & the Bar La Mere Vipere & I had come to a crossroad & I been in the Bar business since. I have been drawing & painting as long as I can remember I originally painted in oils & was introduced to this medium by my x-wife Marilyn. We would use the dyes to make hand painted Tee's , pillows, & baby blankets, Marilyn had some painting she had done w/ the dye which she quilted by adding a batting to the back of the painting which gives the piece a quilted/ relief effect. Working with the fabric dyes, needle & thread I feel as though I'm working WITH the piece as oppose to working ON a piece with paint, this makes me feel more at one with the piece ( I have been known to sign in blood on some piece's" quite by accident ") For most of my early pieces I did them late at night after coming home from working at the club, I found painting & sewing soothing after a night of filling the glasses of the masses. Most of my early pieces are portraits of historical figures, both known & obscure. Themes I've incorporated in the early pieces gangsters, musicians, black western, native Americans, freaks. Since the late 90's I've began to use different drawing styles & adding beadwork & objects to my pieces & some of the recent themes have been Haitian Voodoo, African- American Northern Migration, Lost in History on my lighter side I also have done a series of Fairy Tale & Nursery Rhymes. I am currently working on a series of pieces based on Japanese Prints.

I have shown at Bona Fide Gallery - Chi. IL- Dynamite Gallery- Grand Rapids Mi.- Thirteenmoons Gallery- Santa Fe NM.- Two Rivers Gallery- Minn. Mn. - Wendy Cooper Gallery- Chi. Il.- Heaven Gallery- Chi. Il.- I also do a yearly show at the Rainbo Club in Chicago.

My work can be seen in the film " High Fidelity" & you can read about it in the book "Wild Chicago".   I appeared on the show also which aired on WTTW, my work was also mentioned in the International Review of African American Art vol.17 #1- The Black- Indian Connection in American Art. One of my pieces ( Bonnie & Clyde ) was recently used for the Rock Band "Dr. Dog " new CD/LP Fate & is being sold cross country. I can be seen in the film You Weren't There which is the history of the Chicago Punk Rock scene from 1977-1984, I was interviewed & provided some photos & film. I've been at the Rainbo Club since 86, it's the best bar in the Universe."



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