Elliott Wall was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1974, going on to have a somewhat unconventional youth: because both his parents were nursing home administrators, he lived throughout the “retirement capitol of the world”, Florida, growing up in various nursing homes and retirement communities during the afternoons and summer months. Back in Memphis he later studied art at one of the great fine art magnet high schools in the country, but is self-taught in painting. Moving to Portland in 2002, he studied Linguistics and Russian-language studies at Portland State; then as a philosophy enthusiast, in 2018 he gave a well-received four-part lecture series for The People’s Colloquium using art to teach basic philosophical concepts.
Elliott paints life-size figurative works, approaching the process from a critical, didactic stance instead of a creative one, hoping that intentionality and purpose precede creation, and believing in the instrumentality of art as a test for universal elevation, rather than as personal indulgence. One doesn’t truly know what kind of person one is until one has been tested. The imprecations “be yourself” or “express yourself” are attempts to confine us to the bounded surface of who we think we are and what we think we know, but no one should ever be one’s self— one should always try to escape the self to be better than how one already is.
"We live in a wish-fulfillment society and are all drowning in beauty, yet in general people are possibly more demoralized than ever. Beauty and pleasure, at least as we now understand them, are clearly not ultimately satisfying. Art, therefore, must be edifying. If it isn’t then it is only just attending to the current sensibilities of the audience, and is therefore proportionally only just craft. The criteria for success with craft is well understood (paint pictures of Greeks standing around in places, in the style of Bouguereau; or paint wan looking people in rooms, like Sargent; or paint sweaty or wet people photo-realistically, for example). Contrariwise, there seems little point in making art of something which the viewer already fully accepts, and the more artistic something is the more inscrutable it becomes. Beauty, like craft, is being studied scientifically, and will also soon be well understood, and beautiful things are at all times being created almost totally programmatically through technique alone, which is to say, as a craft. We’re extremely susceptible to beautiful collisions of sounds (e.g., fancy words or “gorgeous” music), or beautiful forms of any kind, but it begins to feel vacuous and predictable, as just another pretty face or pretty painting. Then some artists try to ugly things up to relieve the boredom; and surrealism depends on the viewer having a rather normal, sane view of reality, and it seems like low-hanging fruit to just merely seek to scandalize normal, sane people. For now I’ve settled on making paintings that are pretty plain, beautiful or crafty enough, and on a painter’s technique that is good enough for our purposes, preferring to work on establishing instead a technique of thinking and technique of living life. The vehicle being, to achieve mimesis with portraits of ideas. This is all only a personal prescription however— in art as in all things, each of us must discover our own incommensurable criteria for Success."