UNM art teacher Ellen Babcock explores traditional and non-traditional practices

With a variety of skills under her belt, both traditional and non-traditional, Ellen Babcock, associate professor of art at the University of New Mexico, excels in the world of art, knowing she wouldn’t want to. be elsewhere.

“If you’re an artist, you don’t really want to do anything else. It’s his own satisfaction,” Babcock said.

Babcock has a background in painting and sculpture, but has focused more on painting in the past five years. She said painting is a faster process and doesn’t rely on physics like sculpting.

“I’m really intrigued by the way paper reacts to watercolors and I love how it moves and warps, and I love the different effects of different colors of paper, the different range of possibilities that each of these types of paper, offer me,” Babcock said.

Mary Tsiongas, an art professor at UNM and a multidisciplinary artist, met Babcock when Babcock was hired in the art department in 2009. She said Babcock was “very good at getting things done” and understanding how things had to be done.

“I saw her very quickly as a unique thinker and someone who is extremely observant and has very broad definitions of what art would be; it wasn’t just about doing stuff in the studio – which I know she does. She has a very strong practice in the studio, whether it’s her sculpting work or now, more recently, she’s doing these amazing drawings,” Tsiongas said.

Babcock said the painting allows for an internal meditative process by “trying to become aware of how my mind works and how thoughts have a way of coming and going”. Painting also gives him time for solitude.

“At different times in my life I’ve had a process of meditation – I don’t do that at the moment, but I’ve had it at other times – and I’m intrigued by how this process of painting seems parallel to following thoughts and then simply returning to feeling, being and existence,” Babcock said.

Creation of Babcock Friends of the orphan signsan organization that makes artwork with abandoned panels, the same year she joined UNM.

“The mission of the organization is to create collaboratively produced artwork in signs, and it’s an evolving group of people, but I’ve been running it for… about 10 years and a little over 10 years. last year I handed over the leadership to one of my former graduate students,” Babcock said.

This allows many different groups of people to come together, from artists to homeowners to pedestrians, according to Babcock.

“The inspiration for public art was the fun of working with other people, the fun of collaborating, and the satisfaction of taking something that just seemed abandoned and being able to bring more light and color to it,” Babcock said.

Babcock was smart in applying for grants and made the organization a nonprofit, according to Tsiongas.

“It was such a smart and innovative idea, to look at a city, to look at its community around UNM and see that there was this potential to activate things that were overlooked and forgotten and that working with people , especially high school kids, to kind of see the beauty and the potential of things that maybe get thrown away and forgotten,” Tsiongas said.

Babcock’s involvement in the community creates accessibility for more people to view the art, those who might not go to a gallery or art exhibit, according to Tsiongas.

“I think she has a very strong aesthetic sense, and that’s a very important thing for an artist,” Tsiongas said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Babcock said Friends of the Orphan Signs was lucky because the group was able to do everything online with digital billboards. As for her own life, although the pandemic has been stressful, it has inspired her to set up a home studio as well as other personal benefits.

“The pandemic has allowed me, in some ways, to have a sustained involvement in this thinking and engagement with my paintings where I didn’t have deadlines to do things the same way. I had a bit more time, a little more freedom,” Babcock said.

Babcock said she felt lucky to be a professor at UNM.

“One of the things that is really wonderful about my life here at university is the balance between teaching and working in my studio because my students excite me and inspire me, but I also have this time to reflect and meditate on the experiences that happen in the classroom… And I can also vacillate between speaking, using language all the time, and then these very non-language-based communications,” Babcock said.

Tsiongas emphasized how humble and friendly Babcock is, someone who is very easy to talk to.

“I think he’s a very kind and caring person,” Tsiongas said. “She’s very quick to help if anyone needs help,” Tsiongas said.

Looking to the future, Babcock envisions his own exhibition featuring his paintings without frames at first, in a place “where I can feel comfortable showing them as vulnerable as they are, just the paper, then possibly to be able to supervise them”.

“When you have your own show, it’s like creating your own little world…for other people to step into,” Babcock said.

Megan Gleason is the editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @fabflutist2716

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