64 Parishes

Spring 2023

Color Me Intrigued

Ellen Soffer’s evocative use of color

Published: February 28, 2023
Last Updated: June 1, 2023

Color Me Intrigued

Shreveport Regional Arts Council

Ellen Soffer, A Year of Flowers, 2021. Oil on canvas.

Northwest Louisiana artist Ellen Soffer is well-known for her brilliant use of color—bright, powerful, emotive greens, yellows, reds, blues, oranges, pinks—that compels you to pause, respond, to feel something. The titles of many of her pieces are also an homage to her passion for color: Pink Shell, Blue Fish, Green Alphabet, Pink Slice, and Blue Bird. There is a unique intensity of color and an awareness of form throughout her newest works, currently on view in the exhibition Pink Sky, presented by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) at artspace in downtown Shreveport and curated by Kelly McDade, professor of visual art and art history at Bossier Parish Community College.

Soffer said that she creates intuitively, not always knowing how a piece will come together, but certain that color and its intensity will be driving forces. According to Soffer, when she is making new work, she is inspired by previous work, visually and formally, and the titles for the pieces come afterward as she carefully reflects on how a painting might relate to her current and past bodies of work. Soffer said, “My intention is to capture the impressions and sensations left behind from dreams, emotions, or memories without being limited to the specific details of the events, leaving room for viewer participation and interpretation.”

Emily Wilkerson, professional critic, writer, and curator based in New Orleans, recently reviewed Soffer’s work during SRAC’s annual showcase of northwest Louisiana art and artists, Critical Mass X (2022). Wilkerson said, “In Ellen Soffer’s painting Summer Light, Blue Lake, the artist’s bright, beautifully mixed pigments create a dynamic tension between abstract shapes and natural, undulating edges.”

McDade said that Soffer’s paintings ask something of her audience—that they absorb, think, and ultimately make something meaningful of the works for themselves. McDade’s goal with this exhibition is to celebrate and recognize Soffer’s work; she said Soffer is one of the most prolific, meticulous, and focused artists she knows. “To become absorbed in Ellen’s imagery is a thrilling and moving experience for the viewer, as she communicates with such bold brushwork and intense color,” said McDade.

McDade went on to describe Soffer’s work as intuitive, while also being very analytical. “When I look at her paintings, while they have a sense of spontaneity and freedom within them, I can tell that nothing is haphazard—every brush stroke and color combination is strategic, which ultimately requires that the viewer engage in a ‘conversation’ with her work. This newest body of work reflects Ellen’s ability to be responsive to how light, color, and shape interact in a very moving way, visually. I see her work as an invitation for critical thinking and individual emotion.”

Soffer creates on canvas and paper, using oils primarily, but sometimes also gouache, acrylic, and watercolor. She has had solo exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia and has been featured in group exhibitions at Mary Tomás Gallery in Dallas and the Longview Museum of Fine Arts. She is a recipient of SRAC’s Visual Arts Fellowship and has been awarded residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Skowhegan. Soffer earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art.

When asked what she hopes to convey to those seeing the Pink Sky artspace exhibition, Soffer said, “I look forward to sharing my work and the viewers of the exhibition having the chance to see a large body of my work together. I invite those who see the work to engage with and interpret my paintings in their own way.”

Pink Sky includes more than sixty new paintings created in the past four years, with works of gouache and watercolor on paper, as well as large-scale oil paintings on canvas. The exhibit remains at artspace at 708 Texas Street in downtown Shreveport through April 8, 2023.