The artist found her calling in her early forties when she moved from New York City to the rural Southern Tier surrounded by dense woodlands, stone walls, abandoned apple orchards and a diversity of wildlife. After years of living, working and commuting in Brooklyn and Manhattan at various non-profits and corporations, including outpatient mental health centers and the Brooklyn Hospital Center’s NICU, her dream was to move to the country. It was the solitude and quiet that first allowed her to paint (Biophilia) in a small upstairs bedroom of a little farmhouse at the top of a winding, dead-end dirt road. Living in the woods she had found her utopia.
Eleni Smolen is deeply connected to and concerned about the natural world. She ascribes to Edward Wilson’s concept of “biophilia,” the word he coined to describe humankind’s deep affinity for nature. The artist believes nature is, as Wilson describes it, “the refuge of the spirit, remote, static, richer even than imagination.”
Working through a particular idea and image through multiple riffs and variations has been standard practice for the artist since she started painting in the mid-nineties. Series include the early, abstract paintings Biophilia, Dharma Rain and Persistent Song; the horse motif in Ridgeline and Wherever I Travel; and the memorialized girl holding the bird in Girl by the Sea and Guardian Series.

New series initiated in 2020 include drawings from The Turin Horse Series and paintings and drawings from Surfacing. The common ground which runs through this new work is an acknowledgement of dark moods and emotions concerned with sorrow, solitude and despair.  Responding to events in the wider, outside world during the course of 2020, as the country – and world – seemed to revolve around an endless cycle of trauma and cruelty, the artist manuveured between mediums and formats in a search for spiritual and emotional reconciliation.

10 new tree paintings broke through in 2021 –  perhaps a requiem for all the trees destroyed in wild fires around the world – along with paintings which combined the girl with the bird motif with flukes and whales.
Smolen presently lives in Beacon with her husband, David. She has a studio in Newburgh, New York at Regal Bag Studios on the waterfront of the Hudson River.

Updated December 16, 2021