One essential trait that differentiates us from animals is creativity—you could say it’s what makes us human. Today’s podcast guest believes creativity not only cultivates connection, better health, and critical thinking but can also “help humanity save itself.”
In today’s episode, host and NOT REAL ART founder Scott “Sourdough” Power introduces 2022 NOT REAL ART grant winner Ellamaria Foley-Ray, a visionary artist who combines ceramics, literature, anthropology, and quilt-making to magical effect. The annual grant, established in 2019, provides financial backing and creative support to working artists across the US who challenge the meaning of “real art.”
“[The phrase] ‘not real art’ has Western, colonial, oppressive tones that define some creatives as legitimate art-makers and the rest of us as imposters who fail at making ‘real art,’” says Ellamaria, whose work explores African culture across the continent and throughout the diaspora. Treating clay like cloth, the professor of African American studies and visual anthropology creates ceramic quilt sculptures that chronicle the rich history of African art, expression, and storytelling the world over. “When I carefully listen to my internal ancestral voices and consider ways to bring clay to cloth, I’m no longer interested in making ‘real art,’ but in creating ceramic quilts that touch viewers from the inside out,” she continues.
As both a visual artist and anthropologist, Ellamaria strives to educate viewers on the complex cultural aesthetic of Africans across the globe in the 21st century. The Denver artist incorporates quilting into her practice “as a way to talk to ancestral women,” who were considered keepers of the domestic craft. Instead of traditional cloth, Ellamaria sculpts with clay because it speaks to her soul: “I am using clay because that is how I write the narratives I tell,” she says.
Viewing artmaking as a “portal to healing,” Ellamaria encourages adults to “come home” to their creativity: “Life is calling us to come back to that space where we are creating beauty, to come home to who we are as poets, novelists, playwrights, dancers, comedians, sculptors, and painters,” she says before adding, “Life is calling us to do this in an attempt to help humanity save itself.”
Tune into today’s episode on the player below to hear our conversation with NOT REAL ART grant winner Ellamaria Foley-Ray.