Delicate yet dangerous and evoking both strength and vulnerability, the wearable metalwork of two-time state arts fellowship recipient Ellen Durkan is creating a striking presence in Delaware College of Art and Designs Toni & Stuart B. Young Gallery
Ellen Durkan: Behind Her Iron Gates opened at DCAD on February 1. Complementing the forged fashion pieces are graphite and charcoal drawings in a range of sizes.
The drawings influence the metalwork, and the metalwork influences the drawings, notes Durkan, who is the first DCAD graduate and faculty member to present a solo show in the institutions main gallery. I use jewelry, leather and blacksmithing techniques to transform my drawings into my three-dimensional reality.
Durkan, a Wilmington native, graduated from DCAD with an associate of fine arts degree in 2004 and went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree from The Corcoran College of Art + Design and a master of fine arts degree from Towson University. She also completed a blacksmith assistantship at Peters Valley School of Craft. The Delaware Division of the Arts awarded her an Emerging Artist Fellowship in 2011 and an Established Professional Fellowship in 2018.
The self-labeled artist craftsperson owns and operates Iron Maiden Forge and has taught sculpture, three-dimensional design and drawing at DCAD for nearly a decade. She spends summers traveling to instruct blacksmithing classes all over the United States as well as in South America.
Durkan has shown her pieces in more than 40 shows, including a recent exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum. She also has mounted more than a dozen runway presentations of her work, as far away as France and Australia and as close by as The Queen and The Delaware Contemporary here in Wilmington.
The pieces I create challenge my craftsmanship while constantly posing difficult psychological questions, she says. To make a material known for its strength soft enough to be re-shaped is powerful. The work confronts issues with trust, vulnerability and power, as well as the dichotomy of letting go and opening up at the same time.