Ellen Eisenman’s work is rooted in the narrative tradition of documentary photography as well as the use of quilting in preserving family & community histories. Archival photographs are sewn together with thread and fixed in place with nails, pins, or silver wire along with glass, stone or metal beads.  The tactile process of sifting through traces of memory, sewing together fragments, handling beads, and combining images, provides a framework for reflecting on the connections between our personal and social experiences.

From a distance, Eisenman’s works appear to be large-scale renderings of the intricate patterns found within a quilt or a kaleidoscope. Comfort, harmony, and order resonate from the ordered patterns of the work. But up close, content and abstraction confront one another, and fragments tug at the recesses of our minds.  Indeed, the images come to us the way memories do—in bits and pieces, at times distorted, at other times as clear icons.
Influenced by Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” Eisenman has put together a collection of works focusing on people who refuse to be silent, from Mother Jones, to antiwar protestors, to Lorde herself.

Ellen Eisenman has been an artist and a community worker since 1967, currently residing in New York, NY.  As a college student, she became a documentary photographer, most interested in the lives of workers and the nature of work.  Over the years as she photographed people’s daily lives, she began to put images together to explore the connections between people; to think about how we build and what it is that holds things together; to try to understand what it is that makes people fight for justice.

The Lane Hall Exhibit Space is open Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm.

This exhibit is co-sponsored by the School of Art & Design, Rackham Graduate School, Center for the Education of Women, Institute for the Humanities, Spectrum Center, American Culture Department, and History Department.