Back from Florence, Ellis brings new perspective to her art

Haddonfield resident draws inspiration from worlds old and new

For as long as she can remember — and incredibly the power and persistence of her memory lasts as far back as age 2 — Ilana Ellis knew she wanted to be an artist. Now, the child’s dream has become the passion of adult years, and has taken her from Haddonfield to a center of European art history and back again.

Recently returned from three years of study at the Florence Academy of Art, Ellis is holding an an exhibition of her work for all of October at the Cherry Hill Library. She is scheduled to have a reception there on Monday, Oct. 15, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

With generations of film, television and print telling us that life-changing romance and wonderment awaits any and all who tap into Europe’s deep well of history, it would be easy to think Ellis could be lured away permanently by Italy’s old-world charm. Not so, since the tones of home and growth of roots reached deep for the world traveller.

“We moved to New Jersey when I was about 12, and we lived in Cherry Hill for several years. And then, my mom moved with my younger brother to Haddonfield because of the school system, so she wanted to put down roots for him. I was in college at the time, but when I came back … it’s still a beautiful town,” said Ellis.

Even after living in Europe and experiencing amazing cities there, Ellis came to realize there are some pretty charming locales in America, too, that match their counterparts from across the Atlantic.

“Florence is Florence, there’s no place like it in the entire world. The architecture excels. That’s what I love about Europe. When you get to the old centers of cities, they’re so aesthetically beautiful. The streets are picturesque, everyone’s dressed in fashion, there are little coffee shops everywhere. Beautiful colors. Just stunning. It’s easy to draw inspiration,” said Ellis, gesturing toward a similar tableau along Kings Highway.

On a warm autumn day in bustling downtown Haddonfield, Ellis offered deep praise for the borough and the region for inspiring her.

“It’s beautiful, it’s open, there are these very picturesque houses. I think they are some of the most amazing things in the states, the details in construction, it’s a different sort of inspiration because it’s peaceful. It’s close enough to Philadelphia and the museums there make me feel connected to the wider world. I do feel more connected here than I do in Florence. It’s also calm enough here to have a space to work,” Ellis added.

Ellis’ month-long show will feature oil painting and sketch work from her Florentine schooling. One painting on display was completed in Haddonfield, an oil on linen self-portrait. All of her work drew its method from the famed L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts from Paris. Ellis cited a deep connection between American artists and their French counterparts in the late 19th century as an influence.

A 2014 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, Ellis earned her degree in studio art. Just before departing, she claimed the Frederick M. Peyser Prize in Painting, a yearly honor received for what is judged to be the best painting in the school. Soon after graduation, Ellis returned to the borough and had her oil paintings featured in an exhibit at the Markeim Arts Center.

Once Ellis wraps up her show, she will have a short break to catch her breath before traveling abroad. In December, she will enter into an apprenticeship with artist Odd Nerdrum, one of the oldest masters of oil painting, living and working alongside him in Norway and Sweden.

To view more of Ellis’ work, to purchase art or commission a piece, go to her website ilanaellis.com, her Facebook page Ilana Ellis Art, or on Instagram @ilanaellisart.