Ellen Lesperance

Installation view, Amazonknights, ICA Miami, 2021.

Ellen Lesperance employs the visual language of knitting patterns in order to pay homage to female activism. Inspired by actions of protest that have shaped the twentieth century such as a the Greenham Common Peace camp, the artist sources archival images of protesters’ hand-knitted garments which she first translates into American Symbolcraft, before turning them into meticulous gouache paintings on paper.
Citing inspiration from Bauhaus-era female weavers, the Pattern and Decoration movement, and feminist art of the 1970s and 1980s centred around the female body, Lesperance reframes image-making outside of male-dominated Western painting traditions while honouring the creative labour of women standing up against social and political ills and environmental destruction.

Oui Girls, Look!, 2017, gouache and graphite on tea-stained paper, 106.7 x 75 cm

The Vigil, 2019, gouache and graphite on tea-stained paper,
106.7 x 75 cm

Greenham Women Are Everywhere, 2019, gouache and graphite on tea-stained paper, 106.7 x 75 cm

Weave Your Power with the Wind. We will Change and we will Spin, 2019, gouache and graphite on tea-stained paper 106.7 x 75 cm

Installation view, Dress Codes, The Frye Museum, Seattle, USA, 2019




On the occasion of Converge 45, Ellen Lesperance has published Peace Camps, a novel partially set in the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, England. The exhibition, titled The Subjects, 2017, features the book, published by the Portland arts press Container Corps with illustrations by artist Jeffry Mitchell, as well as archival photographs, source materials, and other texts linked to the all-woman, direct-action, anti-nuclear-proliferation occupation established outside the Greenham Common Royal Air Force base from 1982 until 2000.

XOXOXOX, 2019, gouache and graphite on tea-stained paper,
104 x 75 cm

How Does It Feel in Your Chicken Coop, Soldiers? Little Macho Cockrells Parading the Wire? Strutting in Your Dustbowl, Arid and Treeless, You Obey Orders but We Are Free!, 2018, gouache and graphite on tea stained paper, wool sweater hand-knit by the artist, 55.8 x 75 cm


Review: Woven Histories at LACMA
4 Columns, 12 January 2024

Will There Be Womanly Times? Reflections on the Work of Ellen Lesperance
Essay by Mhari McMullan, Textile, 9 November 2022

Ellen Lesperance Merges Knitting With Paint to Extend Activist Archives
Transcript of conversation with Stephanie Seidel at ICA Miami, Ocula, 9 March 2022

London Summer Round-up
Report by Chloe Carroll, Art Monthly, September 2021

Celebrating the Knitwear of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp
Interview by Rosalind Jana, Elephant, 27 July 2021

Ellen Lesperance: Will There Be Womanly Times?
Review by Rees Arnott-Davies, Night Offices, 25 July 2021

Unexpected Vernacular: Ellen Lesperance
Interview by Jared Quinton, BOMB, 13 July 2021

Ellen Lesperance: Patterns for Protest
Profile by Tessa Moldan, Ocula, 23 June 2021

Review: Ellen Lesperance at Derek Eller Gallery, New York
Review by R. H. Lossin, Art Agenda, 10 November 2020

Review: Ellen Lesperance at Derek Eller Gallery, New York
Review by Claire Lehmann, Artforum, Vol. 57 No. 4, December 2018

What to see in New York Galleries This Weekend
Report by Roberta Smith, The New York Times, 20 September 2018

Pattern Recognition
Feature by Jennifer Kabat, Frieze, No. 189, September 2017

Ellen Lesperance at Adams and Ollman, Portland
Review by Ashley Stull Meyers, Daily Serving, 29 September 2016

Ellen Lesperance
Review by Sue Taylor, Art in America, 29 November 2014


Ellen Lesperance (b. 1971, Minneapolis, USA) lives and works in Portland, USA. She has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. Solo exhibitions of her work include The Land of the Feminye, Derek Eller Gallery, New York (2022); Amazonknights, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Will There Be Womanly Times?, Hollybush Gardens, London, (both 2021); Together we lie in ditches and in front of machines, Derek Eller Gallery, New York; Ellen Lesperance: Velvet Fist, Baltimore Art Museum, Baltimore (both 2020); W.I.T.C.H. 1985, Portland Art Museum, Portland (2017); Run Now Women, XO, Project Room, Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris, France (2016); and Ellen Lesperance, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2010). 

She has participated in significant group exhibitions internationally, including Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2023); Long Story Short, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2023); Confessions of the Century, Broodthaers Society of America, New York, USA; Happy Mechanics, Hollybush Gardens, London; Staying with the Trouble, Tufts University Gallery, Somerville, USA; Active Threads, KAI 10 Arthena Foundation, Dusseldorf, Germany; Art on Paper 2021, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA; The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time, Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA (all 2021); Never Done: 100 Years of Women in Politics and Beyond, Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA (2020); Less Is A Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston, USA; Dress Codes: Ellen Lesperance and Diane Simpson, The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, USA; Feminist Histories: Artists After 2000, Museum of Art São Paolo, São Paulo, Brazil; Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, traveling: Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, UK; To Make Wrong / Right / Now, Honolulu Biennial, Honolulu (all 2019); New Materialism, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden; Nashashibi/Skaer Thinking Through Other Artists, Tate St. Ives, Cornwall, UK (both 2018); and Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, The New Museum, New York (2017). 

Her work is held is significant public collections including Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; FRAC Grand-Large, Dunkirk, FR; ICA Miami, Miami, FL; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.


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