Before his illustrious painting career began, the current Edward E. Elson Artist in Residence, Chris “Daze” Ellis, painted subway cars in New York City. In his artist talk, which concluded a five-week stay at Andover, Daze showed numerous photographs of his early works.
On Sunday, in the crowded Kemper Auditorium, Daze utilized his artist talk to speak about both his time at Andover and his career as a whole.
In the mid-1970s, Daze began noticing subway cars being painted. Although he was unsure where this art came from, who did it or what it said, he was inexplicably attracted to it.
“It wasn’t until I entered the High School of Art and Design in 1976 that I started meeting people who were actually going out and painting trains. When I started meeting people, I realized that there was a lot more to it than I realized. There was a culture that was behind it. It wasn’t just random acts of vandalism or random acts of mischief, but people were taking their time to really develop their craft and to be creative,” said Daze.
Daze also commented on why he took photos of the works he created on trains.
“The documentation element was really important to me as well as to other people because eventually it would be taken away. It would be either gone over or cleaned, so I spent countless hours on subway platforms waiting to photograph my work after it was done,” said Daze.
Since moving on from painting trains, Daze has been working on canvas and painting murals.
One of the pieces Daze shared with audience members, “Fort Apache,” was a blue-hued painting depicting a courthouse building in the Bronx. “Fort Apache,” like many of Daze’s paintings, documents New York.
“New York has been my muse since I began making paintings. It’s an endless source of inspiration for me,” said Daze.
As well as working with Andover students, Daze has collaborated with students from a mural class at Lawrence High School.
“For my students, I think they truly enjoyed working with a bona fide working artist, Daze. They loved the opportunity to get to work at the [Andover] campus and create work that is currently hanging at the Addison Gallery of American Art… Many of the students even volunteered their time on the Good Friday Holiday to log more hours on the works… This opportunity allowed me to better serve my students and expose them to a new environment and art community outside of their locale,” said Eric Allshouse, an art teacher at Lawrence High School.
All four paintings that the Lawrence High School students and Daze created are currently on display in the Addison rotunda. “Untitled (View Out Bus Window)” by Nicole Rosario, Melissa Tejada and Ruth Vasquez is one such painting, showing a city street from the view of a bus window. The pane of the window separates two different scenes outside. The first depicts people engaging in friendly conversation, a rainbow in the sky and people dancing. The second half shows a building in flames and a person being chased.
Daze also worked with students from Emily Trespas, Instructor in Art, Painting II class to create a mural in the Elson Art Center. Each student in the class was assigned a small section of the mural to complete. The finished mural shows a woman gazing at a vintage depiction of an Andover football player while a sponge wipes a path clean. The large work references the past and future of Andover.
“When I worked with Emily’s students, it was important to show them how you can take very different elements in a mural or in a project and combine them to create a composition that makes sense,” said Daze.
“Daze is a very down-to-earth and cool guy who’s had some fascinating experiences. At first we were all a little nervous and would ask him what to do every step of the way, but he kept encouraging us that this was our mural and we could make whatever we wanted out of it,” said Anna Krakowsky ’15, a student who worked with Daze on the mural.