My work is shaped by an array of cultural influences but mainly by my Japanese ethnic roots. Growing up as a third generation Japanese American, I was surrounded by traditional art and textiles and also came to develop a kinship with pre-Columbian art of Latin America. This connection animates my mixed media work that merges past and present with social, political and emotional elements. For me each scrap of fabric or paper is a metaphor for identity and personal memory that is at the core of my art.
Ellen is a mixed media and textile artist and taiko (Japanese drum) musician. For over 40 years she has endeavored to give voice to her Japanese cultural roots, to honor nature and to address political concerns through visual expression and the language of the drum. She began taiko training in 1974 under Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, founder of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, and went on to become an original performing member of San Jose Taiko and founding member of Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble. Ellen has exhibited her art nationally and internationally since 1980 and in 1988 she co-founded 9-11 Studios, a live/work artist complex in Oakland, CA. Her work has spanned a range of media from painting to wearable art, installations, theatrical costume and set design, collage and hand cut paper. Her interest in the arts of Asia and Latin America led to her involvement in humanitarian projects and textile research in indigenous communities of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Mexico. She continues to explore the connection between art and culture of these civilizations as they inform her identity as an Asian American woman artist.