Claudine Elian uses language in her art because, as she puts it, unlike representational art, words exist in their complete state only when they are both written and read. However, she also finds the Latin alphabet static and conforming. So she invented her own alphabet.

Elian, who works under the name C.C. Elian, is a distance education student formerly of Anacortes, now of Brooklyn. But she is not studying art. Art is something you discover on your own, she feels. Rather, she is pursuing a degree in social science.

 ”A lot of the material I write about has a social bent,” she says. She has no interest, though, in simply responding to headlines, looking at her education in social science through WSU as training her mind to better contemplate certain problems.

Adult education is a real gift, she says. It’s better to go to school later, when you know what you’re interested in. Five courses away from a degree, she admits she is distracted by the energy of her art and New York City. At 51, she has no plans to change the direction of her life and art. However, she is determined to finish her degree, for the sake of completion.

Elian’s interest in language as art began early. Born in Alsace, she first spoke the Germanic Alsatian dialect. She and her twin brother were orphaned and moved to an orphanage in southern France, where she spoke French. In high school, she taught herself to write in Cyrillic, which “made it a little more interesting.”

She works in a “codified calligraphy,” which she based on a Pythagorean grid. Why would anyone want to learn a private language in order to “read” her art?

They don’t, she says. But that language will guide the reader through the deeper layers.


For more on her work, see