little small

Remembering what is lost, kept, altered, and shared

Linden Eller’s collages on display in Newberg explore the melancholy of childhood amnesia, while reinforcing the value of staying present

The artist’s statement that accompanies Linden Eller’s Little Small exhibit, on display through June 1 in Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center, makes a fascinating point about the nature of individual memory, which is integral to the images she’s given us.

Amnesia is popularly regarded — when it’s regarded at all — as the result of trauma: physical trauma, such as a blow to the head, or psychological trauma, a natural psychological defense mechanism that shields us from recalling some experience too painful to revisit. Those, to be sure, are variations of amnesia, but ignore a crucial fact: Most adults’ first memory is from around age 3 or 4. The first years of our lives are lost to us.

Eller developed an interest in this “childhood amnesia” when she spent a year working with children at a kindergarten in Maebashi, Japan. She responded, as artists do, artistically: A project was born, which began with drawn recollections by children ranging in age from 2 to 6 and culminated with Eller’s sewn-collage versions of those drawings. The pieces were paired and were first exhibited in Maebashi. Now the exhibit has taken up residence in the cultural center’s Central Gallery. Eller writes: “This project is a reflection on what is lost, kept, altered, and shared during the first years of life.”

Artist Linden Eller attempts to replicate the quiet hazy environment from which a memory is recalled, according to her website. Her “Little Small” exhibit is at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

Artist Linden Eller attempts to replicate the quiet, hazy environment from which a memory is recalled, according to her website. Her “Little Small” exhibit is at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

Eller was born in 1984 and grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., before heading to Southern California, where she earned her BA in studio art. She has traveled a great deal; besides living and working in Japan, she’s lived in New England, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. My interview with Eller, who has returned to Phoenix, was conducted by email and has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m always interested in origins, beginnings — and, of course, this goes directly to an interest of yours: memory. What do you recall about your own introduction to art and creativity? How did you choose to make it a career?

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