GROTON — Pawcatuck artist Ellen Ellenwood's new exhibit, "Among the Tides," will open this week at the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery in Groton and remain on display through March 15. An opening reception is scheduled for this Friday, Jan. 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery, located on the second floor of the Branford House at UConn's Avery Point campus.
Ellenwood, a Westerly native who grew up in the Daytona Beach area of Florida and lived in Boston for a number of years before moving back to the area with her musician husband a few years ago, has long been fascinated "with the ocean and the creatures who inhabit it," she told the Sun in an interview last year.
A recipient of a 2019 Connecticut Sea Grant Arts Support award, Ellenwood uses historic and modern techniques to transform plastic beach trash and microplastics into images that call attention to global ocean pollution. Using a cyanotype process developed in the mid-1800s, she creates photographic prints of discarded plastic items such as balloons, take-out cups, sandwich bags and lighters, without using a camera. The images, on chemically treated blue paper exposed to the sun, are then transferred in a second step using the wet plate collodion process onto colored glass.
Ellenwood also creates works out of microplastics — tiny plastic fragments that can harm wildlife if ingested. She uses digital photography to capture images of the brightly colored shards found in samples of sand examined under microscopes. Ellenwood is pursuing a master of fine arts degree at UConn.
"I've always loved the beach," said Ellenwood in an interview. "Our family spent a lot of time on the beach and we always had that 'leave it better than you found it' belief."
As part of an interdisciplinary facet of her project, Ellenwood and University of Connecticut Marine Sciences Professor Evan Ward, who is currently conducting research on microplastics in shellfish, will discuss the issue of global plastic pollution at a Feb. 25 lecture at Avery Point. Titled "Visualizing Plastic: Integrating Science and Art to Inspire Change," it is part of the free public Coastal Perspectives Lecture Series. The talk will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium.
The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
The 2019 arts support award was jointly funded by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Economic Development’s Office of the Arts.