Ellen Schinderman is an artist with a relentless sense of dedication to her humor, seeing as her needlepoint recreations of vintage porno-photographs take weeks to complete. And as a cool master of her medium, Ellen has the perceptive eye to choose pieces that will make you smile rather than cringe, which on the surface can seem easy to do, but upon closer inspection actually requires an innate ability to curate on top of execute her works of art.
So, it is a pleasant surprise that she has therefore curated an epic exhibit of needlepoint art across two separate galleries in one month. Home Is where The Needle Marks will first open on June 9th at (SUB)Urban Art in downtown Los Angeles, followed by an annexed show of even more works on June 16th at Pop Tart Gallery.
“The name of the exhibit comes from a Gil Scot Heron song named Home Is Where The Hatred Is. He was a junkie and so the full lyric is: Home is where the hatred is / home is where the needle marks / And it might not be such a bad idea / If I never went home again. And I just thought it had such a great connotation to it, since most people think of home and homely things when they think of needlepoint.”
When I visited Ellen’s atelier, so much about her art made more sense to me. Her collection of wooden chickens, vintage books, and exposed scrapbook wall complete with buttons that read “Will Stitch for Booze” and a cookie monster patch, just made me instantly feel inspired with positive creativity. “Once you have 3 of something,” she said “you’re instantly a collector.”
I couldn’t help but notice a postcard featuring the painting of Eloise from the Plaza Hotel on her wall.
“Eloise was a series of children’s books for precocious adults about a little girl who lived in The Plaza Hotel. So, years ago, they used to send postcards as if they were Eloise and I have one that was addressed to my mother about her dog, which reads as follows…”
I just heard about you, a dog, with my name [since my mom named her dog after her] and my dog weenie doesn’t like it one bit neither. I’m learning to type in the office and I have to sneak out now, but you will hear more from me later
– Eloise from The Park Plaza’
C’mon, how cool is that! I mean, knowing that an artifact like this postcard exists must get the imagination swirling. Especially for Ellen, who grew up surrounded by the antiques her father dealt and her life as an actress before discovering her unique talent for embroidery.
“I have a BFA, but it’s in drama.”
Whoa! How did you go from acting to needlepoint?
“Well, it took a long time. It wasn’t like I was in drama school and then suddenly decided that I wanted to be a needlepointer. Even before I did needlepoint, I started writing and never fully stopped. I wound up selling some reality shows, nothing that aired, and turned around at one point thinking that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I mean, I had a wonderful time doing improv, comedy, and theater. But, I had always been a really artsy kid. I went to super artsy schools and super artsy summer camps.”
When did you first learn how to do needlepoint?
“I had a babysitter that taught me when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I bought a kinky pixelated painting inspired by the arcade game Donkey Kong at IAM8BIT Gallery that I thought to start doing it again. I started thinking about how naughty and pixelated the painting looked and it got me thinking about how porn would look if it was recreated in a similar way. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head and I thought that if I wanted to see it exist, I would have to make it.”
Did the skill of doing needlepoint come back to right away?
Not exactly, so I went to the only store in LA that teaches needlepoint and give all the credit to Laura Taylor, the lovely lady who really taught me how to do it.
How did you start getting your pieces into gallery shows?
I was buying pieces from Gallery1988 and I’m the type of person where if I go to a store more than twice, I’m like by the way, I’m Ellen. Anyways, I showed them the work I was doing on my phone and they were like that’s kind of cool. The next time I was in to see more work they ended up asking me if I would be interested in making something for a group show. So, I asked what they had coming up? And they replied by telling me that they had just confirmed a Beastie Boys exhibit. So, I told them that I just peed. It was my first exhibit ever and both my pieces sold in the preview night, I couldn’t have been more happy!”
After the success of the show, Ellen launched the online store on her website Schindermania, where she sells items like embroidered pillows and cards that she hand makes in her atelier.
“People tell me that I should manufacture more products, but I don’t want to do that. I like the aesthetic of handmade things.”
Her comment swung me back to the collections around her atelier, where every item gives off this feeling that it was made by a human being instead of a perfected machine.
“I have one major rule when it comes to making things. I have to really enjoy it. I don’t want something that’s going to bore me while I’m working on it because it’s a couple weeks worth of commitment from me for each piece as a minimum. And usually when I say like it, more often than not, it means that it amuses the hell out of me. “
Ellen is fucking cool.
ELLEN SCHINDERMAN: http://www.schindermania.com