WHWrLAB 2014

Angela Ellsworth, ARTIST

Angela Ellsworth is a multidisciplinary artist traversing disciplines of drawing, sculpture, installation, video, and performance. Her solo and collaborative work has taken in wide-ranging subjects such as illness, physical fitness, endurance, religious tradition, and social ritual. She is interested in art merging with everyday life where public and private experiences collide in unexpected spaces. 

Her work has been reviewed in Art News, Frieze Art, Fiber Arts, ArtUS, and Artforum.com. She has presented work nationally and internationally including The Getty Center (Los Angeles), Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney, Australia), Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw, Poland), National Review of Live Art (Glasgow, Scotland), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA), Museum of Contemporary Art (Denver, CO), Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Scottsdale, AZ), and Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ). She is an Associate Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts-School of Art at Arizona State University and is represented by Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona and Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne, Australia.

She holds an MFA from Rutgers University in painting and performance and a BA from Hampshire College in photography and painting. She attended Skowhegan artist residency on a fellowship and has worked with South African artists Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky (Rosenclaire) for numerous years.

Ellsworth’s body of work called the Plural Wife Project, navigates issues of the body in relation to gender, sexuality, and cultural histories of the western United States.  Exploring the inherent queerness embedded in early Mormon polygamy, the project engages contemporary notions of non-heteronormativity and re-imagines a community of women pioneering an alternative history.  She is founder of the Museum of Walking and co-founder of Two Little Wishbones with her partner, Tania Katan. Together they run a workshop near Siena Italy called Topography of Memory. Ellsworth was born in Palo Alto, California, grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and resides in Phoenix, Arizona where she is an Associate Professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 


Shabnam Ramaswamy, ACTIVIST

From eking out a living on Kolkata’s streets to working as an interior decorator, Shabnam Ramaswamy’s life has been full of twists and turns.

Born in a village in the interiors of West Bengal’s Murshidabad, Shabnam, got to study in Kolkata’s elite La Martinere School, thanks to her father’s Army job. At 16, she was married off to a wealthy 32-year-old who would beat her to a pulp. After bearing him two kids, her husband would regularly throw her out of the house at night because he felt their son didn’t look like him. One night, at 24, she left home with her son.

For two months, she lived in a shanty at Sealdah station after which she got herself a job and worked her way out of poverty. Within a decade, she succeeded in her job as an interior decorator, got a divorce and won custody of her children. But she began to tire of high-society life and trained her sights on social work. “I decided to leave Kolkata, as it was awkward going from businesswoman to social worker in the very same city,” she said. She wrote down the names of six cities on chits of paper and asked her daughter to pick a chit. The girl picked Delhi, so that’s where the family went.

Shabnam joined Mira Nair’s Salaam Balak, where she befriended runaways at Delhi station. A senior journalist, Jugnu Ramaswamy, approached her with the intention of making a film on her work. He not only made the film, but married her too. The Ramaswamys set up a school for street kids in Delhi, called Jagriti. After the school was demolished by the Delhi government, they headed to Katna in West Bengal, where they decided to set up a state-of-the-art school with the same name for rural kids. In 2005, just before the school began, Jugnu died of a heart attack, leaving Shabnam to run it single-handedly. Today, the school boasts several school rooms, workshops, and hostels for 500 students, teachers and staff.