Chicago Kunst

Play and colorful. Josiah Ellner

Josiah Ellner is a Chicago-based artist currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ellner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but grew up in Xi’an China. Growing up in a city of more than 9 million people with scarce green spaces and little to no wildlife, he has always felt a disconnect from the natural world.
Swimmy, 2020, Oil and sand, 55x41 inches
Swimmy, 2020, Oil and sand, 55×41 inches

Despite these feelings of alienation, he has found himself strangely drawn to the natural world and a yearning to reconnect with it. From his personal experiences of encountering and engaging with nature, Ellner weaves together playful narratives that capture these fleeting moments of intimate connection. Through careful abstraction, he is able to heighten and fully portray the whimsical and awkward interactions that he has with the natural world.

Plant Daddy, 2021, Oil and oil pastel, 36x36 inches
Plant Daddy, 2021, Oil and oil pastel, 36×36 inches

Who or what inspires your art?
I have always been inspired by nature and the stories that involve experiencing nature, whether it is an indirect or direct experience. These could be stories of walking through the woods, enjoying a summer day, climbing a tree, rolling around in the grass or interacting with a childhood pet.

Describe your style of art:
My style is playful, colorful, and cartoony.

Do you have a mentor or coach?
I have had many mentor figures in my life that have really helped me become the person I am today. From professors, to family members to spiritual leaders. So many people who have gone before me have thankfully looked back and taken the time to guide me and coach me.

How do you structure your day?
As a fulltime MFA student my days are primarily structured around classes and studio time. I usually try to get to my studio around 9:00 am and then I am on campus usually until 8:00 pm. I try to dedicate 4 hours a day to painting/making/creating but much of my program includes quite a bit of writing and reading which ends up taking a lot of my time in the day.

I Eat the Seeds, 2021, Oil, 36x36 inches
I Eat the Seeds, 2021, Oil, 36×36 inches

What do you know about European art?
My knowledge of European art is mostly from my studies in undergrad. From taking art history courses about classical, renaissance, medieval and modern art. My work actually draws a lot of conceptual inspiration from German expressionist artists like Marc Franz and Wassily Kandinsky. But my knowledge on the contemporary art scene in Europe is quite limited.

Josiah Ellner in his studio
Josiah Ellner in his studio

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am focusing on developing my practice conceptually as well as formally. Working through a lot of bad paintings and experimenting with new materials. I am also working on my solo debut with Tchotchke Gallery in New York which will be in June.

Josiah Ellner –