Elliott Earls Biographical information

Portrait of Elliott Earls

Elliott Earls at the Louvre looking at unknown item

Short Bio


Elliott Earls is Artist-in-Residence and head of the Graduate Graphic Design Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Mr. Earls has led the graduate program at Cranbrook since 2001. Earls work as a designer, performer and artist is represented in major collections including the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, The Wolfsonian Museum and The Miami Art Museum. His work has been featured in both solo and group exhibitions at Art Basel Miami Beach. As a performance artist Earls was awarded an Emerging Artist Grant from Manhattan’s prestigious Wooster Group. Earls has preformed globally including featured shows during the Exit Festival at Masion des arts de Créteil, and at Music Hall, Detroit. Earls work as an artist has been exhibited widely including a major recent installation at the Triennale Museum in Milan.

Long Form Biography


Earls was born in 1966 and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Earls received his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1993.

As a performance artist, Earls began performing with a six month run at the independent art center Here in Soho New York City in 1997. He was a featured performer during the 1999 and 2000 Culture Mart Festivals in Soho. Earls was then awarded an Emerging Artist grant by Manhattan’s prestigious Wooster Group. He was a featured performer at the Wooster Group’s Performing Garage in july 1999 and in Créteil France as part of the Exit Festival at Maison des Arts et de la Culture. Earls has performed widely in venues as diverse as The Walker Art Center,  in Minneapolis; The Oak Street Theatre in Portland, Maine; at Experimenta 99, Lisbon, Portugal; Opera Totale in Venice Italy; Typo 2000 in Berlin; and Living Surfaces in Park City Utah. Earls most recent performance piece debuted at Music Hall Detroit in 2006 and was subsequently featured during Vernissage at Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 as part of the Wolfsonian Museums official program.

As a filmmaker Earls in association with Emigre Inc., released Catfish a 55-minute film on DVD In May of 2002. Catfish traces Earls’ work from the lab to the stage in a highly manipulated digital film incorporating, animation, stop motion photography, drawing, typography and live action into a seamless performance documentary.  Earls’ work has been featured in numerous publications including: The New York Times, The Village Voice, Emigre Magazine, Blueprint Magazine, Contemporary, ID Magazine, Urb, Heckler, Creative Review, Creativity, and EYE magazines. Earls was profiled in 2002 by Eye, Print and Punk Planet magazines. Earls has written numerous essays on design and culture including the recent “Make/Do; The curious problem of the relationship between Sanjaya Malakar, Marc Newson and Marcel Duchamp,” and “The Sentient and the Bag of Meat,” both of which were published on Design Observer.

Earls spent September 2000-May 2001 as Artist in Residence at Fabrica, Benetton’s studio/research center in Treviso, Italy. He has taught design, typography, and new media at the State University of New York at Purchase. Earls has spent time at countless American universities and has given workshops on design, culture and new media in Europe and America. Earls has been nominated for numerous awards. In 2001, Earls was a finalist for the Chrysler National Design Award in New Media. In 2004, Earls was nominated by the British Magazine Blueprint  for it’s Designer of the Year Award. In 2010 Earls was again nominated for a National Design Award in Communication Design. In 2011 Earls was nominated again for a National Design Award in two categories; Lifetime Achievement and Communication Design.

In September 2005, Earls formed the band The Venomous Sons of Jonah. Earls and The Venomous Sons went on to record The Sessions at Christ Church Cranbrook an acoustic record of roots music as part of his multi-media performance piece Bull and Wounded Horse. In January 2006, Elliott debuted the performance at Music Hall Detroit with special guests The Venomous Sons of Jonah. Earls has lectured on his work at countless venues in Europe and America, including recent lectures at the Walker Art Center, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has lectured on his work in Berlin, Mexico City, Lisbon, London, Eindhoven, Venice, Milan, Treviso and New York City.

Earls’ sculptural and installation work is currently on display at the Cranbrook Art Museum, and at the University of Akron.

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Watch this eight minute short produced by Debbie Millman and Zoom In Online in association with Adobe and the AIGA.

Design Matters Live is an on-going series based on the Adobe/AIGA live version of Debbie Millman’s highly acclaimed and much listened to internet radio show, Design Matters. In this first episode, Debbie talks to the multimedia artist, Elliot Earls, about his experimental non-linear digital videos, spoken word poetry, music, typography and the inspirational leap he made from commercial graphic artist to teacher, mentor and self-made artist.

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