Yoga = Art
Artist Feature: Ellie Yanagisawa
Although meditation isn’t always easy, explains local cosmic artist and yogi Ellie Yanagisawa, it has become essential to her creative process. Read on to learn about what inspires Ellie and her reflections on being an artist during a pandemic in the full interview.
“I always try to open my studio time with meditation and movement to release my mind and body of any tension and realign them. Sometimes I can slip into this state seamlessly; other times I end up staring at my canvas for hours. The key is remain consistent to keep returning to the practice of realigning mind, body and spirit. When these three are synced, anything is possible.”
Tell me about your work. What inspires you?
There are vast worlds and experiences beyond the ones that I know. While I love this sacred sack of bones and meat that I call my body, I can only perceive so much through my limited five senses and cognition that has thousands of filtering biases. My process of making art helps me to move beyond my human limits and explore these otherwise hidden places–the microscopic, the cosmic, the surreal, the visionary, the subconscious, the ancestral. I love to decode what I find with all sorts of mediums, including pen and ink, paint and sculpture.
I have so many sources of inspiration for which to be grateful. I’ll honor a few in no particular order: Mother Ocean and all of her beauty, mystery and cosmic horror; interdependent and perfectly balanced relationships in Nature’s ecosystems; my Japanese heritage; fierce expression and visions of fellow queer BIPOC; mythologies–both ancient and modern; magic; anime.
What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects? How has living in DC with COVID precautions affected your work?
I’m currently finishing up a couple of commissions for clients, but these unprecedented times challenged my personal practice, providing the opportunity for me to press the big ol’ pause button to reflect on the why and for whom I make art.
During the first few weeks of the pandemic, I experienced an intense creative block. My usual schedule of moving endlessly between my day-job, art events/meetings/production had come to a standstill. By stopping, all of this cumulative exhaustion (that I thought I had been properly addressing) suddenly caught up with me and demanded me to sit down and rest.
Did I humbly listen to this request? Of course not. I clung on to old habits. If I can’t be still in the physical dimension, I’ll overcompensate in the virtual one and sign up for all of the Zoom events and workshops and accept digital projects! In other words, I kept saying no to myself even in this deepest hour of need, pouring from a cup that was already running low.
Once I stopped to rest and just breathe, I was able to reconnect back to my source and slowly refill my cup. I am spending a lot of time with my inner child and honoring her needs. I am remembering to make art for myself first–fill myself first–and then to co-create from this space of abundance. When my cup is overflowing, that is when I access hidden worlds and bring them to light with ease.
This pandemic has been one heck of a teacher.
I’m curious about the mind-body connection and your work. When you’re in the creative process how do you relate to your breathe and body?
I always try to open my studio time with meditation and movement to release my mind and body of any tension/anxiety and realign them. This prepares me best to enter a state of flow. Sometimes I can slip into this state seamlessly; other times I end up staring at my canvas for hours. The key is remain consistent and maintain discipline to keep returning to the practice of realigning mind, body and spirit. When these three are synced, anything is possible.
If I were able to follow you around to see art in DC, which places would we go? What would we see?
We are blessed to be in a city with free access to world renowned museums. I love to visit the Renwick and National Portrait Gallery for doses of inspiration. While downtown, I also recommend going a couple blocks further south towards the mall and to the US Botanic Garden. I love going there to commune with all of the plants, especially in the winter time, when outside the weather is cold and dreary, but inside the greenhouse is a juicy oasis.
I would take you to the Brookland Arts Walk to visit the Omi Collective’s Hydrated Womxn art gallery and lounge for an event or just to sip tea and relax. The space feels like a safe womb in a city that can be at times overwhelming. It also showcases the works and products of a number of DMV based artists, myself included.
We would also visit sPACYcLOUD in Adams Morgan, an entirely unique place where the community vibes are high. It is a restaurant, bar, skate shop, gallery, music venue and wellness space all in one. The owner, Tati, is an incredible creative entrepreneur with the biggest heart, and it shows in the way she curates the space. You can also see one of my first murals in the basement as well!
Who are some of the DC artists you enjoy?
Ahhh! There are so many amazing DC artists. Here are some in no particular order:
- Artist, storyteller, photographer, Dorian Blue @thedorianblue
- Artist and muralist, Aniekan Udofia @aniekanreloaded
- Artist and muralist, Kimichi Juice @kimchi.juice
- Drag King and performer, Tre D. Thickum @tredthickum
- Creative recycling leader and style icon, @swapdc
Do you have anything to share about your artwork featured here?