“Picken’s simultaneously organic and geometric abstractions are part of a long tradition of universalist, spiritual abstraction. Her works invite viewers to investigate ways of knowing and being, celestial and earthly, physical, and intangible.” - Spokane Arts

What is the relationship between Please and Thank You, winter and spring, baptism and sacrifice, being awake and dreaming?

Very few experiences give us direct knowledge, we rely on symbols to bridge the gaps. Even the most skeptical (that is me) seek stability in a world we have little control over. So we create rituals, put things in certain order, and invent connections to keep neurosis in check. In symbols the irrational has a place to dwell until a deeper understanding can be found (but never truly found.) I try not to hang on too tightly to my concepts, allow them to adapt, and return to the observable cycles as my guides: knowing each turn of day, year, life, will be slightly different from the last. That each turn is not the last.

My recent paintings incorporate or are entirely created with handmade paint. I collect minerals, bones, ash, and rust from meaningful locations; my great-grandmother’s former home, the forests our community helped to protect, the river that is our water-source, our city in disrepair. I grind the objects into pigment to mix with oil, local pine sap, and beeswax raised by my neighbor. The result is far from refined so the paint retains the qualities of its past life. I paint on clayboard panels, often layering, scraping, and layering until a somewhat solid sensation of the dream settles in.

Most of my subject matter is abstracted from dreams. Ancient men and women tucked inside their secret homes hint at things gone and to come. The snake appears every few years, maybe more frequently now. Lightning speaks. Whatever I try to hide will find its way out. However far I reach inward, there will always be the unknown buried there from the beginning; a star, a seed, a night hallucination.

B. 1980
Ellen Picken lives in the inland railroad town of Spokane, Washington. She earned her BFA from the nearby state school, Eastern Washington University. The Art Department, treated like a cloistered monastery by the rest of the university, allowed for radical experimentation in its isolation. She creates large scale murals for large scale companies which can be found from Seattle to New York. She fills her spirit painting in her studio with the elements of her environment. And on occasion collaborates with her husband, photographer and musician, Rajah Bose. Currently, no dog.