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Portfolio of
 Leo (Christianna) Ellingson 

La Mesa, California
United States

Media Type(s):
    Oils & Acrylics

e-Mail Artist

Galleries in Portfolio:

Soggy Bottom Studio

View Artist Statement

Gallery Direct Interview with LEO (CHRISTIANNA) ELLINGSON

Leo Ellingson is a retired geologist who later in life pursued her artistic talent as a watercolorist and sculpture. Her wonderful sense of humor is the contributing factor to her success as a “Junk Artist.” Her Junk Art’s whimsical characters delight viewers and evoke chuckles and curious smiles from everyone who sees them.


When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?

Well, ahhh…let me see…I guess about always. But I didn’t think I could make it as an artist while at university so I switched to Geology where one at least gets to look at pretty things, like mud slides, devastating floods, the aftermath of major earthquakes etc…

River/Forest Interface by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-6083
River/Forest Interface

What formal or informal training have you found most useful?

The most useful training experiences that I have had were in Shop Class where I got the feel for a goodly number of both hand and electric tools, also figured out how to use a couple of different kinds of welders. It was here that I had to learn to fight and swear like a guy. Later, and of at least equal importance, was a series of classes with tractor-healer and local hero-artist here in “River City”, Ms Susan Weathers. Now I am not one to whine, but on-accounta-because of my somewhat splashy approach to watercolor it was not uncommon to find that Ms Weathers had sequestered me in the back room as “damage control protocol”. (I was frequently even jeered at). (True Story) For me it was at best, lonely.

Furthermore, it is highly unsanitary. My husband refused to appear with me in public because of the paint up my nostrils and fingernails. Painting is also quite maddening. Most artists go mad. We have proof! Those artists who do not, should not be invited to mingle in polite society. (Polite society is boring in any case. Nobody likes a good food fight anymore!) I am currently working on draft public safety legislation to end this practice.

Le deluge by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-6086
Le deluge

How long have you been painting and whose work do you feel you relate to most?

I guess I’ve been painting since shortly after my escape (retirement). I am still excited by the artists that I knew from my youth. They include particularly the Toronto 7 and Emily Carr. Now, that’s not to say that I am old enough to actually have known them but I did know their work. There are a goodly number of North American and European impressionists and expressionists that I enjoy today. In actual fact it is difficult to find a variety of art that I cannot appreciate. OK I might not like some “bank-type-seascapes” but I can appreciate the work that went into them.

If Wildebeest Ruled....  SOLD by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-6087
If Wildebeest Ruled.... SOLD

Your “Junk Art” is delightful. How and when did you discover your talent to make these whimsical characters from junk you collect on your meanderings?

Well, yes. It started really when I would walk or run and see all of the truly fascinating crap on or near the roadway. This stuff ranged from your usual pop cans, stolen billfolds, and especially if one was near the railroad tracks, the most interesting bits of way-strange mechanical stuff and yes even bones.

Thus it was the making of revolting sculptures from such found junk that became yet another satisfying outlet for me since that escape stuff. It was then, without regret, that I took vows as a born-again junk artist. While this may be touted as a somewhat uncharacteristic move for a woman of a “certain age” (or somewhat past) it does happily seem to have brought out my more disgusting edge. Further, while watercolor is certainly somewhat challenging at times, any fool can create junk art. As an added attraction it is also wonderfully helpful in keeping the streets free of road kill. Strangely, however, these pieces have not been particularly big sellers among those who still retain some sense of smell.

At the Ellingson “homestead” outside of Mapleton where I first started my junk-art work, neighbors (and family too) appear to have thought of me as armed and dangerous. Indeed, according to sources within the local Neighborhood Watch, frightened villagers had been known to storm my workshop while I was immersed in my “Esprit de Junque” activities.

I have heard it said that my husband was usually able to disperse the crowd and lead me out peaceable following the administration of significant quantities of dark chocolate. (Not necessarily recommended for the folks at home) Fortunately, I remember nothing of these episodes (or a variety of other episodes for that matter).

Russell's Boat Dock-SOLD by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-6084
Russell's Boat Dock-SOLD

Which of these media is your artistic medium of choice? Why that medium?

I do go back and forth in that respect, but only in the uncommon and unlikely event of having just finished an actually quite good painting. This is rather uncommon and it is known around the neighborhood to really piss me off when paintings turn out yet again looking like Ca-Ca. Something about …”one wouldn’t expect that sort of language…in this neighborhood.” My voice carries …I am nowhere near that neighborhood. So I think I have to say that watercolor is certainly challenging for me, and it is my considered opinion that any fool lacking a sense of smell can create junk art. One of those fools is me and I like it.

Cow Parsnips by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-6089
Cow Parsnips

How do you think or want people to respond to your work, be it watercolors or your Junk Art?

I really don’t give a rat’s ass how they respond to it as long as they buy it. I have a large shell necklace that opens and closes that I often wear to receptions. When I feel there is a buyer drifting about, I whip out my tiny toy gun from the necklace (shares space with a tiny Santa, a crystal for divining and the ashes of St. Helens ya know) I haven’t scared anyone into a purchase yet but I can keep trying, eh? I don’t expect to always understand another’s art as they intended but that does not necessarily keep me from liking it.


Which medium do you feel people are attracted to the most when viewing your body of work?

It really depends on the individuals’ background, sensitivities, sense of smell and whether or not he or she has been tempered by the rearing of children or other savage beasts.


What are some of the comments you get relating to your “Junk Art”?

“Howard honey…I think I need to have a nice vomit and then go home, OK?


What are your favorite pieces of work you have done and why are they your favorites?

Now you got me. My all time favorites would be junk art Items. I think I did two pelicans at different times and the Grate Hammer Head Shark. Others are Dianna and the Possom and one of my earlier pieces "All you need is Love.”


What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

The best part is getting to be creative with weird stuff that will scare little kids. Of course in my case it helps to be surrounded by a wide variety of unidentifiable junk to look through for that special yucky piece. In addition to having such fun occasionally one gets attention, approval and sometimes, even checks.

Dianna and the Possom by Leo (Christianna) Ellingson
Artwork-ID: 100-9412
Dianna and the Possom

Do you create your work with a specific group of people in mind and are you concerned if they see your work differently from the way you intended?

Only if I create a piece for a friend and they scream or respond in terror I have to assume that they see it as I intended but don’t think it is funny. In that situation I have either lost a friend for life who sometimes I can win them back by making something worse for someone they don’t like. We’re a small but creepy bunch. Otherwise I just hope there are other “wounded” individuals out there who will find my stuff strange enough to acquire.

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