S. Elle Campbell

is creating oil paintings, mixed media art

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My first art was writing. My second art was music. My third art was dance. My fourth art was medicine. My current art is the synthesis of everything I’ve mastered over my lifetime, and all the stories those experiences have spawned, transformed into tangible objects. Although my art is intensely personal, I want people to view my work and recognize their own interior worlds.

I began painting in January, 2018, to explore what I saw and felt during medical school. I started with portraits of people I knew who went on to become outstanding physicians, using pictures they felt were representative of who they were during their training. I painted them in oil, and then gave them wings and halos to represent my conception of the ideal physician. I started this way to ease into some of the more difficult images that I felt compelled to paint, so that I could start this journey with a balanced perspective. The darker images are surreal representations of actual experiences I had during that time. Participating in medical culture gave me PTSD, and the darker images are the result of the persistent, intrusive and unspeakable memories that have changed my relationship to the world.

While I continue to work on this series of paintings, I’ve begun to open my mind to other ways of rendering other stories, and am currently working on several art projects that also tell balanced narratives about shared experiences on a wider scale. Examples include a giant envelope filled with the precious things people send to us, and a mixed media project on canvas that explores patterns of homelessness. As I hone my skills, improve my artistic knowledge base, and develop a more nuanced eye, I can see myself working in any medium if it serves my aesthetic and inspires me to create.

The most important and inspiring material I work with is the lifetime of experiences I’ve had, the observations and decisions I’ve made, the people who have inhabited my story, and how all of this informs my life now. The only thing I’m sure of is that no matter what I live through, I am not unique. This both terrifies me and gives me great comfort. Those dichotomous feelings are at the heart of the stories I explore through my visual biography. My hope is that my art transcends my individual narrative, and tells everyone’s story.

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