Art Beat: Mythology, Folklore And Art

Aug 8, 2019

Ariadne Anna Ill and a ceramic friend
Credit Andrew Robins / WMUK

Born in a refugee camp in Germany at the end of World War Two, Ariadne Anna Ill spent five years of her life “displaced.” The Zaļinskis family had escaped Soviet-occupied Latvia. The only roots young Ariadne knew were her family and the Latvian heritage they passed on to her.


She also developed a deep fascination with the arts and eventually devoted herself to ceramics. Ariadne Anna Ill pursues her art in her Kalamazoo studio, True North, and teaches ceramics at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

“When my family came to the United States, they had to work exceptionally hard to make a living,” Ill says. “So my grandmother took care of us. But my mother was always an artist, and my father was a writer, so they maintained those levels of life energy. That was my model.”

Ill’s interest in folklore and mythology developed in part because it was one of the remaining links to the family history she carried with her, but also because of the name, Ariadne, her mother had given her.

A ceramic sculpture by Ariadne Anna Ill
Credit Andrew Robins / WMUK

“As a girl, I would ask my mother, "What is Ariadne, Mom? What does it mean?'” Ill recalls. Finding out the mythological Ariadne had killed her brother, the Minotaur, the younger real Ariadne would add, 'Mom, how could you give me this name?" And my mom would answer, 'Oh, Ariadne, it is after the golden thread that I named you!'”

And so mythology and folklore, especially Latvian folklore, worked its way into Ill’s artwork. Her interest in ceramics developed fully in classes she took at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

“I pursued drawing, and as a young woman moved to printmaking focusing primarily on etching,” she says. “I was unable to attend to all the things necessary to earn a living as an artist. However, I knew that I could thrive in the teaching-learning atmosphere of education. I graduated from WMU as a nontraditional student with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. A few years later I completed a master’s degree in curriculum.”

Ill’s work has been shown at the KIA Faculty Show; Jerry Harty’s Gallery: Ignertia; Ninth Wave Gallery in Kalamazoo; The Box Factory in St Joseph;, the Monroe-Brown Gallery at WMU; and the Carnegie Center in Three Rivers. She has an annual open house in her studio at True North, 432 East Patterson Street, in Kalamazoo, and at a garden sculpture showing in her home gardens every spring. Ill is currently participating in the upcoming group show called "Photosynthesis" curated by artist Linda Rzoska.

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