'Ellen Carey: Struck by Light' the NBMAA presents the largest survey of Ellen Carey's photography

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'Ellen Carey: Struck by Light' the NBMAA presents the largest survey of Ellen Carey's photography
Ellen Carey, “Crush & Pull with Hands & Penlights,” 2022, 12 Polaroid color prints; 6 positives and 6 negatives, 70 x 264 in. (177.8 x 670.6cm), Courtesy of the Artist, JHB Gallery (NYC, NY), and Galerie Miranda (Paris, FR).

NEW BRITAIN, CT.- The New Britain Museum of American Art to open the solo exhibition, Ellen Carey: Struck by Light, on June 23, 2023 through January 28, 2024. Ellen Carey (b. 1952), since the 1990s, has created experimental and abstract works that expand the boundaries of what photography is. Struck by Light, the largest survey of Carey’s innovative photo-objects and lens-based artworks, highlights her 30 years in the medium.

Ellen Carey names her twin umbrella concepts, Photography Degree Zero (1996-2023), for her Polaroid 20 X 24, lens-based pictures — Pulls and Rollbacks — while Struck by Light (1988-2023), names her series of camera-less photograms Dings & Shadows that continue that legacy. Collectively these visual, unique pictures ask, what is this a picture of? and how is this picture made?, drawing parallels with the arc of photography from the dawn of the medium in the 19th century to now with her explorations of light, color, shadow.

The New Yorker article, "An Outlier to the Pictures Generation Gets Her Due"(February 2023), written by Chris Wiley, sees the arc of Ellen Carey's career, as does the newly opened solo exhibition, Light Struck, at the Fox Talbot Museum (2023-2024), home of photography in Lacock, England.

Ellen Carey received her BFA from KCAI-Kansas City Art Institute (1975) and her MFA (1978) from SUNY@Buffalo (now UB). She is Associate Professor of Photography, Hartford Art School, University of Hartford.

Part One: On view starting June 23 in the Helen T. and Philip B. Stanley Gallery

Part Two: Opens July 20 in the Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation Gallery

Ellen Carey’s Artist Statement

Photography changed our world. Now universal, a photograph links a global community with our picture culture, from each image taken, uploaded by the hundreds-millions-billions seen every day; we are visual.

A Picture is a Poem without Words – Horace

Light’s immateriality challenges its ‘camera operators’ today; analog versus digital technologies double this challenge. The phrase struck by light tells of imagination that sparks inspired discovery conceiving something anew — a rare feeling, a brainstorm … Eureka! … says it all. To be struck by light differs in meaning for photographers. When light-sensitive paper/film is intentionally exposed to/struck by light, a negative/film or image/paper is made; however, if light accidentally strikes the paper/film it is “fogged”, that is, darkened — light travels. Photographers are often called light travelers. I see my work in this context, giving content to it.

Struck by Light has multiple meanings for my experimental and lens-based works. It names my creative practice in photogram, while Photography Degree Zero sees my Polaroid 20 X 24 works.

Photography is so named from the Greek words phōs for light and graphis for drawing — light drawing. Photographers see light in all different ways — silhouette, shadow, outline, reflection; however, I often cannot see light while I work in the darkroom, leading me to wonder what the light does on its own. What is light’s first traces?, its prima facie?

My Catholic birth name, Ellen, a prescient gift from my parents, means light or bringer of light in Celtic, Gaelic, Irish. Color is universal, an artist’s universe; in this universe is photography’s planet where light and color meet and overlap; it is called photographic color theory – RGBYMC – a palette that conceptually underscores Struck by Light and Photography Degree Zero¬.

Struck by Light is the DNA of my dual artistic endeavors — a double helix with light and color, photography within process — that combine destiny and fate. When light becomes visible the photo-object speaks. My photographs say craquelure, parabola, hue, abstract, process, minimal, photogram, light, beauty, color, wonder, invention, innovation. Light travels.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware – Martin Buber

New Britain Museum of American Art

The New Britain Museum of American Art is the first institution dedicated solely to acquiring American art. Spanning four centuries of American history, the Museum’s permanent collection is renowned for its strengths in colonial portraiture, the Hudson River School, American Impressionism, the Ash Can School, as well as the important mural series The Arts of Life in America by Thomas Hart Benton. The singular focus on American art and its panoramic view of American artistic achievement, realized through the Museum’s extensive permanent collection, exhibitions, and educational programming, make the New Britain Museum of American Art a significant resource for a broad and diverse public.

New Britain Museum of American Art
Ellen Carey: Struck by Light
June 23rd, 2023 - January 28th, 2024

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