Linden Eller’s art exhibition at Phoenix College
Artist Linden Eller used to be a solo traveler.
Straight out of college she moved to a small village in England to work in a pub. The nine-month journey began for Eller, who is from Phoenix, more than a decade of traveling before she decided it was time to come home.
“I was really tired and felt like there were things in my life that I’m ready for, like a garden or a cat or some sheep and most importantly a kid,” Eller said. “And for that I had to come home. You can work in other people’s gardens but you can’t plant your own unless you stay for the season.”
Eller, who now resides in New York with her partner Kyle Giocomo, gave birth to their son, Elowen Comelle, in June 2021.
Her latest exhibition, Rhythms of Motherbaby, tells the story of Eller’s latest phase in life: motherhood. It will be on display at the Eric Fischl Gallery at Phoenix College from January 18 to February 6.
Each piece of her vibrant, abstract artwork describes the neurological connection between a mother and her baby, says Eller, as well as the joys and hardships of mothering a child.
“I hope that the moms who come will remember the baby phase that was sunk in an old box in the attic,” Eller said. “My hope is that this exhibition will actively invite mothers to go to that attic and open that box again and remember both the magic and the darkness.”
How Eller took a different path after college
Eller has been creative since childhood. In second grade, she took art classes at Ahwatukee Community Center. She started playing the piano at the age of 10. At 15, she asked her parents for a camera and started taking pictures. And when she went to college, she enrolled as a film major.
But it wasn’t long before Eller transitioned to mixed media art projects. It became a full-time passion.
“The film honestly felt too money-driven and too collaborative,” said Eller. “I just leaned into the art and it felt like a really nice fit. It found me and it felt like home.”
After graduating, Eller didn’t go down the traditional path. Nine months after graduating, she moved to Walberswick, England, a seaside village of 3,000 people. There she worked as a waitress in the local pub.
“I always imagined that one day I’d disappear into a small village somewhere far away, and essentially I did,” Eller said, laughing.
Thus began a decade of traveling around the world, a time that shaped Eller into the artist she is now.
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Eller continued to create while traveling
Eller just traveled. She wore her hair braided to the side, soft layers atop jeans and her favorite yellow cardigan, all carried in her $10 brown Karrimor backpack.
She sheared sheep in New Zealand. In Bali she stayed in a picturesque resort and painted mandalas. In Paris she lived and worked in the bookshop Shakespeare and Company. In Japan she taught in kindergarten. And while in Tasmania, Eller lived near an orchard and picked apricots.
Wherever she went, she lived and worked with local people. Each place taught her to express herself more creatively through her art.
“I was like, ‘How can I make this work?'” Eller said. “I didn’t want to completely stop doing (art) work while I was on the move.”
Whether she was painting a series of 20 paintings during her stay in Samoa or creating a mural in the streets of Morocco for a local non-profit organization, Eller kept working.
Everywhere she went she found fragments and pieces that had their own history. Eller collected old receipts, book pages, brochures and business cards on her travels.
“I would just trip over things and just put them in my bag or in a backpack instead of leaving them behind,” Eller said. “To be honest, they really aren’t any different than things that most people probably like to stumble upon in their everyday lives, but end up in the recycling bin or in the trash.”
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“You always have enough”
Eller traveled with a small bag full of watercolors, some pencils, paper, sewing needles, and fragments she had collected along the way. But instead of letting limited space for materials keep her from creating, Eller used whatever she had to create art.
Instead of painting, Eller began collecting collage materials. Instead of gluing the found fragments, she sewed them to the piece.
“I just sat in any corner of any room in any country I was in and put fragments and colors together,” Eller said. “I created things. You don’t need much and that’s what traveling teaches you.”
In September 2018, Eller finally came home on a cargo ship. Eller said she shared struggles with homecoming through her artwork.
Her last exhibition at New City Studio in 2018, “Go Again Home, Can’t You?” shared the pain and struggles of returning home.
“I’m not this unnamed background character floating through other people’s lives anymore, and that’s really comfortable and really endearing,” Eller said. “I came home and ended up in America and politics and violence and family and became a citizen again. I didn’t have a bank account, I didn’t have a driver’s license, I didn’t have a car. I had to start all over again.”
How Motherhood Inspired New Artwork
Eller has since found a home. In 2020, she meets her partner while living in Phoenix during the pandemic. In June 2021, they welcomed Elowen, their newest muse and inspiration, into the world. They live in Chatham, New York, a small village near the Hudson Valley.
By day, Eller teaches online classes for a Manhattan studio and also illustrates children’s books.
Things are different now. Rather than getting up early for a new day of travel, Eller is up with her son, nursing him and preparing for the day with him. Instead of working alone on her artwork, Elowen rests in his bassinet beside her. And instead of creating collages after observing people from different cultures, some evenings she will create art while watching her son sleep on the baby monitor.
Her inspiration moves with the experiences that life gives her. This is her connection to her son.
“Maternal and infant brains can work together as a mega-network,” Eller said. “Their brainwaves can actually sync up when they interact. Visually, these pieces represent the brain synchronicity between a mother and baby.”
Each track in Rhythms of Motherbaby tells a new story of the joys, beauties, trials and deep union with the loved one that comes with motherhood, Eller said.
“Head Storm” describes the pain of postpartum depression, while another track, “Too Much Happiness,” highlights the love a mother has for her child.
“I’m really trying to explore and represent all corners of the space of motherhood,” Eller said. “For me, it’s not about Elowen and me, it’s also about motherhood and childhood. It’s the experience of so many other people. There is just as much there as with us.”
‘Rhythms of Motherbaby: Artwork by Linden Eller’
Where: Eric Fischl Gallery at Phoenix College, 1202 W. Thomas Rd, Phoenix
When: January 18th to February 6th. The show will open with a reception on January 18 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm
Details: lindeneller.com, phoenixcollege.edu/community/eric-fischl-gallery
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram @sofia.krusmark.
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