I make large scale abstract paintings and digital prints that are derived from historical art. My work is about reclaiming, re-visioning and re-presenting paintings that were created at a time when women were seen as objects rather than equal participants in the creative dialog. The paintings I work after are distant mirrors which I interpret through the lens of contemporary practice. I use gesture, improvisation, and painterly notation to translate Old Master imagery into a contemporary pictorial language. My paintings begin with specific Old Master paintings as a point of departure but then resolve into abstraction as the representational content is transformed and ultimately eclipsed by focus upon color, composition and the materiality of the paint. Linear, rational readings are interrupted. The historical paintings I work after become structures on which to hang paint; the soundness of these structures capacitates great improvisational freedom. The real subject becomes the substance and surface of oil paint, the variety of its applications, and the ways in which it can be used to celebrate life. Alternately, it could be said that the real subject matter is (pictorial) language itself (and the gender bias therein).
Elise Ansel was born and raised in New York City. She received a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University in 1984. While at Brown, she studied art at both Brown and RISD. She worked briefly in the film industry before deciding to make painting her first order medium. She earned her MFA in Visual Art from Southern Methodist University in 1993. Her work has been widely exhibited in the United States and in Europe.