When I met Ella Yadav ʼ23 for our interview, I immediately noticed her laptop case. In the sterile stats center of Sci 149, it was hard not to. It had a clear vision: strawberries, bunnies, and The Japanese Footbridge by Monet, all with the same color scheme. Everything — from laptop covers to room decor — is an extension of Ella’s boundless creativity.
“I go to art museums, and I take pictures of paintings. Then, I print them and stick them on my gallery wall — oh, and I have a photo collage wall right next to it … and I bring postcards from different museums too. I also make flower arrangements. And I made a wavy mirror for a Kitao event last year.”
Ella works alongside Olivia Marotte ‘24 as Co-President of the Kitao Art Gallery. Last year, she coordinated several events, including a jewelry workshop, a small on-campus crafts fair, and even a flower-crown event for Worthstock.
Ella, a double major in Economics and Statistics, appears to be a purely analytical thinker. But ever since she was a child, she has had a creative mind. From stop-motion Lego videos to writing 100-page novels in her spare time, Ella has always expressed herself through art.
“I used to write books — not to publish them. Just in my Google drive and for fun … they’re not good but I enjoyed writing them. I was convinced I’d be a director so I used to make iMovies as a kid too.”
Though she dabbles in many art forms, Ella has always felt drawn to photography. In high school, her parents gifted her a Canon camera. It’s the same one she uses now. Ella took photos of everything, quickly becoming obsessed with photography. When she came to Swarthmore, Ella set out to refine her skills and experiment. Despite knowing she had less experience than some of her peers, she was determined to explore her creativity.
“I felt like I came in thinking I wasn’t an artist and thinking I wasn’t a good artist … but I kept trying. Take classes you think sound interesting, don’t worry that maybe you’re not good at it.”
Ella began with Art I her freshman year and continued to pursue photography throughout her time at Swarthmore. In her junior year, when she couldn’t fit Ceramics into her schedule, she decided to take Sculpture I instead. That small registering conflict opened her to a new world of possibilities. She quickly realized that she could combine her advanced photography skills with sculpture. Without knowing, she created several layers to her art: the sculpture itself, and her finished Canon photograph. They became two separate artistic experiences, one physical and the other visual. Her sculpture is the primary physical piece, but she approaches the final photos of her works artistically as well. Rather than using an iPhone, she takes Canon photographs and finalizes them in Photoshop. The finished product, only meant for documentation, becomes a work of art itself.
As Ella’s style has become more defined, so has her artistic voice. For example, earlier this semester in Sculpture II, she used Swedish and Indian fabrics to express the problems associated with being biracial and feeling “boxed” in.
Utilizing her extensive knowledge of photography, Ella’s photo of her fabric sculptures represents the equality of both of her identities. They are shrouded by the same amount of darkness and illuminated by the same central light. Every piece she sculpts has a secret identity, whether it’s a direct extension of her own identity or of her creativity.
When she showed me her pieces, I couldn’t help but fixate on one of her works. It’s a recreation of her favorite painting: “The Japanese Bridge” by Claude Monet. Despite looking like a gallery wall, it is a small sculpture made of felt that Ella constructed and shone a light on. The final work is intensely unique, as you barely tell whether or not it’s photoshopped. With the added dimensionality of her knowledge of light, the photo comes to life.
However, right when I thought I had a clear favorite, she showed me her most recent piece. She constructed a rain cloud from an actual roof, with shingles. The final photos create an ethereal, surreal effect that is undeniably incredible.
How does she spend her spare time? Ella is a member of the Rocketry Club: making a functional rocket doubles as a work of art by its blending together the analytical thinking that governs her academics and creativity that has her heart.
“I just love to build things; it’s one of my favorite things to do. That’s why I hope I get into the 3-D woodworking class next semester. I also still want to take Ceramics. You know I’ve been looking at grad school programs for art classes because I’ll do anything; there’s no restrictions on medium.”
Even if I wanted to cover everything we discussed, I couldn’t, because her creativity is that expansive. Ella is a true artist. She has carved out her own genre, separate from any established definition.
“I will literally do anything that sounds interesting, and I am going to explore all types of things … The sky’s the limit.”
On campus, Ella has one more semester to go and is planning on squeezing in as much art as she can. Later this year, through Kitao, Ella aims to make a large holiday crafts fair with tents of featured student artists. The event will provide a platform for students to showcase and sell their creations. Additionally, she’s trying to coordinate a crochet and clothes reworking class.
However, as of now Ella is working with Kitao and the Society of Physics Students for their next student display. Stop by on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. to experience the space, earth, and sky-related exhibit.