Ellen Holtzblatt a Chicago-based artist, explores the profound connections between the physical and spiritual world - the memories of the body that reside in the soul.
Holtzblatt exhibits her work internationally and nationally at venues including the Jerusalem Biennale, the Museum of Biblical Art, Spertus Institute, the Rockford Art Museum, Chicago Artist’s Coalition, the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, Inselgalerie in Berlin, Yeshiva University Museum, and the Center for Book Arts. Recent one person exhibits include Josef Glimer Gallery, Fermilab Gallery, and the Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery. Holtzblatt has been awarded artist residencies in the U.S. and Iceland, and was a 2019/2020 artist resident with the Chicago Artists Coalition, where she exhibited in two-person and group exhibitions. Holtzblatt’s work is held in public and private collections, and she has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and City of Chicago. Holtzblatt earned degrees in visual art and art therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Song of Songs: Portraits of the Artist’s Mother
My work is fueled by the exploration of the connection between the physical and the spiritual – the memories of the body that reside in the soul. Landscape becomes an allegory for psyche and emotion, evolution and decay. Through my portraits and landscapes, I seek to embody the power and vulnerability of mind, soul, and spirit and the ever-present passage of time.
My 99-year-old mother, Mary, lived with me periodically during the pandemic. Through her, I witnessed the effects of emotional and physical loneliness. The needs of the body - both the basics of bodily functions, and spiritual and emotional yearnings - are satisfied largely through physical proximity to others, touch, and intimacy.
The titles for the portraits of my mother come from the biblical text, Song of Songs. This poetry is both explicitly sensual and metaphorically spiritual, describing the intensity of the relationship between lovers. Although there is a societal disconnect between the language of sexual longing and the physicality of an elderly woman, I choose to title works of my mother from this text to convey the truth that love and desire, the need for human contact and touch are universal and not limited by age. Living through the pandemic and social isolation, this reality has become painfully clear.