AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Ella Koltun

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features a drawing made by Ella Koltun from Stillwater Senior High School in Stillwater. Minnesota.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature a drawing made by Ella Koltun from Stillwater Senior High School in Stillwater. Minnesota.

Drawing of an abstract landscape and street scene with large faces at either end

Here’s Ella’s statement on the work:

“My sustained investigation was ‘in love with a ghost’ as I worked my way through my 17-year-old friend's addiction, overdose, and death. Her name was Madison and she was something beautiful too big for this world. I tried to show the process of grief in my work, that it isn't this continual line, it is a circle that haunts you, like spiraling down a drain. Some days I was angry at her and angry at the world and so my drawing would be harsh and quick and some days I felt so close to her and my art was soft and gentle. I did not want to just paint portraits of Madison for AP Art this year, I wanted to work through my emotions and process her death through art, and I feel successful in that. I feel if nothing else, I have grown as an artist. My sustained investigation shows evidence of practice, as my style remained pretty constant and was able to practice my line and I can see the difference in the art I started making at the beginning and the art I can make now, it feels really good. I experimented with materials using a mixture that didn't always go together, mixing acrylic with colored pencils and watercolor. I revised my work by going back into old pieces and fixing them.

“I made this for my friend Madison, trying to show what it feels like when someone’s gone and everyone else seems to move on. The world keeps turning, the grass keeps growing but Madison is still just 17, even as years start to pass. She loves butterflies and happiness, the month of May and how it turns into June. The taste of pomegranates and the smell of grapefruit. I miss my friend. I just want more people to remember how beautiful she was, inside and out.”

Here’s Ella’s teacher Carey Nisi on Ella’s work:

“Ella’s portfolio is an emotive collection of powerful drawings and paintings. There is a pureness and honesty in her mark-making that is truly compelling. Through her process, Ella develops a relationship with her materials through study, practice, and play. There is a beautiful balance between her curiosity and the respect she shows each medium she uses. In this piece she thoughtfully eliminated color using pen alone contrasting many other pieces resulting in a feeling of hollowness; something is missing.”

And here are a few other works from Ella’s portfolio:

Building in the sky with a figure climbing the stairs toward the door

Madison is home and safe and I cant be with her anymore I drew her house in sky where she belonged

Abstract figure in muted pinks and yellows

Self-portrait with Madison's arms wrapped around me that I fail to notice contrast behind her hands

Abstract illustration of two figures, with one putting their hand into the other's mouth

Trying to keep Madison alive pulling out your own teeth to make them more human.

Illustration of two figures embracing, in muted reds and yellows

Just two bodies, just two souls and the desire to hug Madison.

Illustration of two abstract figures with wings

Two fairies hold a bag of ashes all thats left of Madison as an offering.

A figure holding a rabbit in a forest scene

After the death of my friend Madison, her heaven with her favorite things bunnies and pomegranates.

Illustration of a colorful nature scene, with a rabbit on the left

Madison's kingdom: I layered colored pencil and built the cloud-shaped with shading and white paint pen.

Student and teacher statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.