FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Strong, Star-Bright Companions
A solo presentation of new works by Ellen Lesperance
4.2.11 - 5.15.11
Opening Reception 4.2.11 (7-9pm)
AMBACH & RICE is pleased to present The Strong, Star-Bright Companions, a solo exhibit of
new drawings and sculptures by Portland, Oregon artist Ellen Lesperance. The exhibition’s
title is derived from Dirge, an elegiac poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson that laments the love
and loss of righteous companions.
Lesperance's oeuvre conflates the political with the poetic. Her ongoing investigation and
aestheticization of the visual vernaculars employed by female direct action campaigns, elicits
an idealism rarely conveyed in the contemporary art world. Through humble and labored
means, Lesperance directs our attention outside the art discourse, encouraging us to
question whether or not civic models can be adopted as artistic models.
While visiting a feminist commune outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lesperance
encountered an activist who vividly described her experience at the Greenham Common
Women’s Peace Camp, a nineteen year long continuous protest, initiated and sustained by
women encamped around the perimeter of what was once one of the largest nuclear
missile bases in Western Europe. The harrowing stories recounted to Lesperance catalyzed
her interest in Creative Direct Action Campaigns and their ability to affect change.
Upon examining archival photographs of female activists and demonstrations, Lesperance
discovered a communal commonality in the form of hand knit sweaters. The sweaters were
as Lesperance perceived it, an extension of shared ideologies, an opportunity for those
challenging the status quo to embody their cause.
These photographs serve as reference for meticulous gouache paintings that depict sweater
patterns. Lesperance carefully approximates the gauge of the yarn, as well as the colors and
patterns obscured in the images, “sometimes imagining a sweater in its entirety when it is
only partially seen.” The instructive nature of her paintings is fulfilled with three sweaters
hand-knit by the artist, and discreetly folded upon a cedar table. Lesperance’s paintings
could be perceived as a sort of sheet music for political action, seemingly utilitarian matrixes
quietly transformed into clarion calls, maps or topologies that “memorialize the glory of
Despite the valor and idealism these works celebrate, a sense of loss lingers throughout the
exhibit. For Lesperance the paintings and sweaters ultimately function as death shrouds or
memorials to individuals committed to fighting for causes greater than themselves. They
signify our society’s continued marginalization of those who refuse to accept preconceived
notions, while existing as beacons of hope, edifying hymns that invite us to rise up.
Ellen Lesperance was born in Minneapolis and raised in Seattle, Washington. She received a
BFA in Painting from the University of Washington in 1995 and a MFA in Visual Arts from
Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1999. Her work is currently on
view at the Seattle Art Museum where she is the recipient of the 2010 Betty Bowen
Award. She is currently included in The People’s Biennial, a traveling exhibit curated by
Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffman. Creative Direct Action: The Greenham Common Women’s
Peace Camp 1981-2000, a broadsheet publication, which includes a selection of visual
reference material and an essay by Lesperance, will be available for free at the gallery for
the duration of the exhibit.