Elodie Freymann

STORY BY Katherine Chavez


“After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘'Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.’” - Annie Dillard, “Write Til You Drop”

Elodie Freymann painted birds on her wall -- directly onto her wall, along the edge of the ceiling above her bed. Each bird is different, but their color composition is quite similar. Every feather finds itself to be a different pigment, together forming a multicolored plumage.

They were painted in a line, flown from Elodie’s imagination and onto a two dimensional perch. However, she worries now about finding the correct color of paint to cover them at the end of the year. In fact, she was initially tempted to note on her room condition evaluation, “There are these birds painted on my wall?” and then leave them on their perch for the next student moving in.

Elodie’s birds are a metaphoric embodiment of who she is, whether or not she realizes it. Here, let me explain:

Elodie migrates.

Elodie goes through phases, flowing effortlessly between different art forms, dwelling on one for months at a time. Last year, she “felted” everything - hot glue gun in hand, every object she owned became a subject for a collage. Even today she claims that if she were to be on a desert island and only allowed to have a single item, it would be her hot glue gun.

In her freshman year of high school, she read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, a book that changed her life. After attempting to comprehend the book by rereading, she turned to art, illustrating each of the 66 cities described in the work. It is here that her extensive production of silhouettes began, and she is currently in another silhouettes phase.

Elodie’s wide-ranging talents and interests, which also include photography, painting, writing, embroidery, and much more, are reflected in her extensive list of inspirational people and activities. Her silhouettes are deeply inspired by the work of Elsa Mora and Kara Walker, as well as the paintings of artists Klimt and Pontormo. When she writes, she cites influences of Calvino, Camus, Borges and especially the short story work of Flannery O’Connor. Oh, and Jane Goodall (“She’s my total hero.”).

One summer, Elodie’s wings even carried her to China, where she worked with art and medicinal plants, a combination of art and science that she is pursuing to this day. Currently in a botany class, Elodie’s life plans include doing field work in the Amazon rainforest, studying primate behavior and how primates self medicate with medicinal plants as well as taking a sociological and anthropological approach to investigate how human beings interact with the flora and fauna of their environments. However, she doesn’t see herself staying there for too long - she hopes to return home to pursue art and writing, turning the knowledge she gains into activism. “And then open a bakery when I get old.”

“I have a very very intrinsic need to feel like I’m making all the time. And if I don’t feel like I’m making I don’t feel good.”

She has a very close flock.

Since she was a young child, Elodie’s Christmas gifts have consisted of art supplies. Her father is an artist whose work has ranged from painting to children’s book writing and illustrating and now photography, while her mother has a children’s toy company and produces art supplies. The creativity they fostered in their children (Elodie has two brothers) also went beyond their own occupations; Elodie’s second and third homes were flea markets and art museums.  “You can’t escape art in New York,” she says.

She sings a distinct Birdsong.

As a tactile learner herself, Elodie hopes to eventually use her work to open up doors into the scientific community. In taking science classes, she has noticed the elitism and overly complicated jargon spread across the field, and sees art as a way to simplify many scientific ideas. “I think that’s my goal, is to be a translator,” she says.

Simultaneously, Elodie is fascinated and engaged by political art. Until she and her brothers left for college, their family had dinner together every night, and conversations surrounding politics were not at all rare. “I had to formulate my own opinions very young to keep up with dinner.”

Artists with strong opinions produce strong art. “I get really bored of art that’s just aesthetic,” Elodie explains, and her art is much more than its beauty: She enjoys combining art and words, producing work like the tote bags she recently made for the Better Sex Talk campaign, which promotes greater awareness of sexual assault and improved sex education.

She has many different twigs in her nest.

From awakening in the middle of the night to write a note on the wall beside her bed to practicing judo since the age of four, Elodie’s unique rituals explain her inherent motivation to create. "I have a very very intrinsic need to feel like I'm making all the time. And if I don't feel like I'm making I don't feel good. When a sentence resonates with her, she cuts it out of the book she's reading and places it into a small box, returning to this box when in need of art prompts. While cutting silhouettes, she has to watch bad television or listen to her friends work on their school assignments. She exchanges art mail with friends, plans to do an independent concentration, and was one of around four people in the art program at her high school. In other words, Elodie is one of a kind. 

At its core, Elodie sees her art as meditative. She likes how silhouettes are only a developing art form, and how each cut produces a “mistake” that arouses an entire reworking of the piece.  “My dad always told me, ‘Don’t plan your art, just do it.’” That must be why her birds will soon be joined by a new friend: a zebra that she plans to add to her wall.