Washed Up: Ellen Driscoll and Robert Oxnam



April 1-June 9, 2011

Viewing and Discussion: Friday April 1, 2011 5:30-8:00pm

5:30-6:00 Meditation

6:00-7:00 Tea and viewing

7:00-8:00 Discussion (other viewings by special appointment only)

The No-Eyes Viewing Wall at Brooklyn Zen Center is pleased to

present Washed Up, a multi-dimensional collaboration between

sculptors Ellen Driscoll and Robert Oxnam. In addition to premiering

their installation on the wall, the artists, who have never before

worked together, will engage the Brooklyn Zen community in a

discussion on states of creative mind. A transcript of the discussion

will then become part of the exhibition. Ellen and Robert are gleaners

of found objects, which they transform, magician-like, with intuition,

ingenuity and precision. Ellen, who collects her raw material in early

morning rambles through Brooklyn, converts plastic water bottles

into undulating and intricate nets containing miniature architectural

elements. Robert’s long driftwood hunts on the beaches on the North

Fork of Long Island yield waterlogged treasure, which he carefully

crafts into poised and balanced sculptures, evocative of Chinese

scholars’ rocks. For both artists, collection is of equal importance

to the labor of making that takes place in their respective studios.

Repeatedly walking down streets or beaches, the artists use their

bodies to mark the landscape of their daily lives. When they collect

“washed up” detritus, they are dipping into an invisible flow. A piece

of driftwood lying on the beach or a plastic water bottle in the trash

may seem static but they are dynamic elements of great oceanic

currents and cycles of global trash, powerful forces that throw our

lives into perspective, and point the way toward impermanence.

Washed Up expresses an inward journey as well, seen through the

minds of these artists, who have agreed to step away from a singular

conception of “I, the creator/artist” and merge their practices on the

No-Eyes Viewing Wall to create an interwoven installation that is

uncontrolled, with no known outcome. This leap requires trust and

comfort with multiplicity and uncertainty, conditions with which both

artists are familiar. In his late 40’s, Robert discovered that he suffered

from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and spent years learning to

listen to the many voices within himself and ultimately to make peace

with his condition (this journey became a book called A Fractured

Mind). When Robert began working with driftwood just a few years

ago, he experienced an extraordinary unity not present in other

activities. Ellen, too, has discovered countless historical voices, which

she has expressed through installations and community projects, and

through which her own story unfolds with insight and wisdom. At the

April 1st event, the artists will engage in a conversation about their

extraordinary inward and outward journeys and the ways in which the

generous mind has served as guide.

Curated by: Noah Fischer.


Ellen Driscoll’s work encompasses sculpture, drawing, and

public installation. Recent large-scale installations include

FastForwardFossil #1 and #2 at Frederieke Taylor Gallery, and

Smack Mellon, and “Revenant” and “Phantom Limb” for Nippon

Ginko, Hiroshima, Japan. Earlier works include “The Loophole

of Retreat” at the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris; “As Above,

So Below” for Grand Central Terminal (a suite of 20 mosaic and

glass images for the tunnels at 45th, 47th, and 48th Streets);

“Catching the Drift”, a restroom for the Smith College Museum of

Art; and “Wingspun” for the International Arrivals corridor at Raleigh

Durham airport. Ms. Driscoll has been awarded fellowships from the

Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the

Bunting Institute at Harvard University, the New York Foundation for

the Arts, the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the LEF Foundation,

the Rhode Island Foundation, and Anonymous Was a Woman. Her

work is included in major public and private collections including the

Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art.


Robert Oxnam is the former president of the Asia Society (1981-

92), America’s leading public education institution on all aspects

of the Asia/Pacific region. In recent years, he has been an advisor

the Bessemer Group, and a traveling China lecturer for various

individuals (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, President George H.W.

Bush) and institutions (Society of International Business Fellows

and Robinson College of Business). In the early 1990s, he served

as Special Correspondent for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, where

he hosted a nine-part special on China. Over the years, he has

authored several non-fiction books on China (including Ruling From

Horseback), two novels (Cinnabar and Ming), and a psychological

autobiography (A Fractured Mind). He was educated at Williams

College (BA) and Yale University (MA, PhD). In recent years, he

has engaged in several visual arts projects with special emphasis

on sculpture. Over 2008-09, Oxnam has opened a new chapter –

creating driftwood sculpture inspired by the great tradition of Chinese

scholars’ rocks. His most recent exhibitions include: Chambers

Fine Arts “Nature Found and Made” (summer 2009 at the ArtFarm

designed by Ai Weiwei), Rockefeller Brothers Fund new headquarters

(opening exhibition, 2009-2010), “Eye World” (one piece in an invited

show of 72 artists from around the world at the Triple Candie Gallery

in New York), and “Nature Spirits” (one person exhibition at the

Interchurch Center in New York City. Future confirmed exhibition:

Barcelona, Spain (one person exhibition at Casa Asia, July-October,