Adiskidan Ambaye Ethiopian, b. 1977

Adiskidan Ambaye was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she lived until sixteen. Ambaye would then move first to Frankfurt in Germany to study, before moving again four years later to Minnesota to study fine art at MCAD, specializing in furniture design. For Adiskidan Ambaye, sculpture and drawing are deeply interwoven. The abstract sculptures she produces are nearly always preceded by gestural two-dimensional sketches, which delineate the foundations for her three-dimensional compositions.


The wooden sculptures appear moulded from a single block of wood but are actually composed of as many as sixty handcrafted smaller slices of plywood. The ringed markings orbiting the surface of each segment represent an individual piece fused to form the whole. Ambaye has described this process as sculpting “from the inside out”.  These cyclical markings also conjure images of the naturally occurring concentric circles found in trees, signifying age, and life and death, as they are only visible once the tree has been cut down.


By sanding the rough and brittle surface Ambaye can rid it of blemishes, or “erase” them as she could do in her sketches, like an eraser with pencil marks. Colour is added through the aid of a blow torch, darkening the wood to a colour reminiscent of a tree’s bark. She wields the blowtorch as she would a pencil as she shades sections of the work. Sprouting upwards and contorted in impossible angles, the sculptures are visualized emotions and life stories. However, this is not what Ambaye wishes the viewer to perceive; she states that she does not seek to influence people’s interpretation of her work and rather hopes they will project their own judgements.


Ambaye has exhibited across the USA as a part of select group and solo shows, including African Women (2001), World Space Centre, Washington DC, Colour of Africa (2001), Portland, Maine, Chicago Museum of Industrial design (2007), Chicago, Africa by Design (2017), Ghana.