Murder ballads are an American (Appalachian) folk song sub genre that has their roots traced back hundreds of years ago to Ireland and England. They describe murder and betrayal often between two lovers played against a simple melody. The songs are either sung in a third person voice or from the voice of the murderer. Many Murder Ballads are based on true crimes stories with historical documentation that link the ballad to actual people and events. Others are variations on older folk tunes and their origins are lost to time. Their function was to spread news in tabloid like form that both enticed and horrified the listener. They often are played in a waltzing 3/4 time and sung in a simple singsong rhyme that evokes a child like innocence that is in stark contrast to the actual lyric.
In this series "You'll never be my bride: ballad of the sweetheart murder" Greene explores murder ballads through images inspired by vintage tattoo and folk Americana icons painted onto delicate vintage leather gloves. The lyrics of the songs are painted in whole or part to highlight certain key phrases that play in contrast to the images. Words and images play against each other in psychedelic hodge podge of surface ornamentation that does more than just illustrate the song.There are mysteries only alluded in these songs- each with similar themes. They often involve a dark place that the suitor brings his love to: either into a woods or down by a body of water. Usually she begs for her life and the life of her unborn child. Sometimes the ballad ends with regrets or redemption at the Gallows but often the songs ends abruptly with no morality tale.
There are many wordless unknown horrors of our own nature that murder ballads touch upon. The dark underbelly of the psyche where dark impulses bloom and deep waters flow. Love gone horribly wrong, death and youth, random murderous impulses, and the very nature of evil are all wrapped into these simple melodies. This is the enduring allure and fascination with this ballad form that inspires this body of artwork.
Ellen Greene was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, a town full of contradictions. A mad mix of frat boys, Christian evangelists, ex-hippie hobos, punks and professors all called Lawrence their home. Drawing compulsively from an early age, Ellen was influenced by 80's pop culture, small town art scene and the colorful characters of her town. Folk art from found objects, DIY fashion and tattoo culture each inspired the red- headed girl who always felt strange in her small town surroundings. After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute she embarked for Chicago where she now runs her art studio. Her work is still infused with the same compulsive intensity instilled in her childhood; a quirky Americana aesthetic born out of contrasts, grown in the Midwest. Her studio artwork has been shown extensively in solo and group exhibitions throughout the Midwest, United States and abroad.