Text by Severin Allgood
Brantley Ellzey was born and raised in the small river town of Osceola, Arkansas. He left home after high school and earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre and a master's in architecture from Tulane University in New Orleans.
His artwork is able to highlight his background in both theater and architecture as he takes paper from books, magazines and newspapers, and then meticulously rolls the pages and layers them into intricate forms to make the subject of his piece apparent in the symmetry and colors of the edifice. Examples of his rolled paper pieces currently hang in the dining room of Bounty on Broad, as well as in the Methodist Olive Branch Hospital.
“I moved back to Memphis to be closer to my family,” Ellzey says of his brief stint after college in New York City. “My first place in Memphis was in the Colonial Apartments on Madison, followed by an apartment on Stonewall and then the house I’ve been sharing with my partner for twenty years. Essentially I have spent my adult life within a three-block area of Midtown!”
He practiced architecture with firms in Memphis for more than fifteen years, finding time to also create art and design stage sets,store windows,and furniture. “I started my own architecture practice twelve years ago, but now the majority of my time is spent making art,” he says. “I moved into my studio in Crosstown four years ago when the only thing there was a beauty shop. How things have changed!”
Ellzey was influenced by artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollack and Agnes Martin. “Regardless of the medium,” he says, “I look for meaningful, carefully considered, beautifully crafted work.”
The inspiration for his work and medium came from his childhood in Osceola. “Being in Memphis, however, allowed me to transition from being a full-time architect to being a full-time artist,” he says. “Memphis has provided a great studio space and a good market for my work but more importantly has allowed me to focus on my art and sell my art throughout the country. I know many other artists who may not have been able to concentrate on their art as much in any other city.” When he describes the city to non-natives, he talks about the affordable living and the friendliness of the people. “There is an ease of socializing in Memphis that is unique and appealing.”
Ellzey is working primarily on commissions for private and corporate clients at the moment but has a gallery show coming up in San Antonio, Texas and will launch a newly designed Web site soon.